The settlements of Rockton and Wangrabelle,
even though they were many miles away from
the Towamba district, were still considered
neighbours as some family members worked
on stations there, or in the mines at Yambulla.
Travellers visiting these settlements often
passed through Towamba. Messages would be
passed and news exchanged.
GLORIA. (Clive's wife) Did you (Clive) tell about your mother riding from Wangrabelle to the dance at Towamba. Her family was from Geelong in Victoria.
VERNER. It's (Wangrabelle) eighteen kilometers up river from Genoa and she used to ride through Yambulla. We used to ride through as kids, through there.
GLORIA. They'd carry their dresses on the horse and change in the hall.
KATE. SO HOW LONG WOULD IT TAKE YOU TO RIDE BACK? A DAY?
CLIVE. Arthur Beasley took cattle through there many years ago now, and they'd do it in a day.
Excerpt from Clements Interview: 'Forgotten Corner Interviews' by Kate Clery
June 27, 1902
'The Sydney Morning Herald'
* Mr. Flanagan, whose residence at Rockton, in the Towamba district, was recently destroyed by a fire, regarding which a verdict of incendiarism was returned, has since had two valuable pigs poisoned, as well as a number of fowls.
'Magnet' August 30, 1930
The highly explosive outburst which took place at Towamba last week, consequent upon the action of the Shire Council in trying to procure the allocation to other roads, of a grant of £800 from the Towamba-Rockton Road, has reverberated throughout the shire. That public dissatisfaction was caused by the Council decision to ask that the money be spent elsewhere than on the road for which it was granted, is not a matter for surprise. Had the grant been originally allocated to the Candelo-Bimbaya and Candelo-Wyndham roads and an attempt been made to get it spent on the Towamba-Rockton Road, one can imagine what a howl of indignation would have been heard from the North-Western end of the shire. Whether or not the action protested against was the outcome of "fair-mindedness" or parochial interest or otherwise, is a question that has been keenly discussed but there is a general feeling of wonderment that any attempt should have been made by the Council to disturb the original allocation.
The brunt of aggressive criticism at the Towamba meeting was directed against the shire president who prefaced the Council's action by stating as his opinion that the money should be spent on more important roads and that there were other roads in the shire which needed money spent on them than did the Towamba-Rockton Road. With this statement, councilors of A and B ridings agreed as also did the shire engineer who stated that though second on the list which he had prepared the Towamba-Rockton Road was the least necessitous. Asked by the President to state the roads on which, in his opinion the grant should be spent, the engineer said he would like to see some money spent on the Wonboyn Road but as that was only a tourist road it would be preferable to ask that £500 be allocated to the Candelo-Bimbaya Road and £300 to the Candelo-Wyndham Road. The way was thus clear for the course that was decided upon.We understand that the President took the view that it would be in the best interests of the Shire that the grant should be spent on roads on which work was most urgently required and that as the shire engineer considered other roads were more necessitous, he, (the President) was justified in expressing the opinions he did. There are many, however, who, while giving the President credit for acting conscientiously consider that from every reasonable viewpoint, a bigger and inexcusable mistake was made in interfering with the original allocation, not the grant. They point out that the listing of the road for a grant, sufficiently indicated its necessitous condition and they hold that the grant should have been unconditionally accepted and that other grants should then have been applied for - or reapplied for - for other necessitous roads.
Unfortunately, not only has the Towamba-Rockton Road been deliberately deprived of its grant but by the Shire Council's action it has been placed at a decided disadvantage in regard to the chance of obtaining for its improvement an adequate grant in the near future. It is regrettable that this potentially important western road from Eden to the tableland - a road that would also be a part of the proposed road from Wangrabelle to Rockton - has received so calamitous setback.
WANGARABELL BURIAL SITES
There is a lone headstone in the middle of the bush about 60 meters off the road, 1.1 kilometers from the junction of Sarah Allen Lane with the Wangarabell Road. Apparently this was to be the site for Wangarabell Cemetery, but digging on top of the hill was found to be too hard, so it was decided to move the cemetery to Wangarabell Station where there were a few graves already. These two graves were left and the inscription reads as follows:
In memory of our parents -
(a) Robert Bridle, died 11 May 1917, aged 78 years.
(b) Susan Bridle, died 1 Dec 1917. aged 78 years.
Wangarabell Station is 20 kilometers from the Princes Highway and is just outside the Bega Valley Shire within Victoria. The cemetery is within sight of the Wangarabell Road and not far from the homestead. It is surrounded by a fence, but we found the gate broken allowing cattle to get in and damage the headstones. The area was settled late last century (19th) and the cemetery was used until 1954 for people connected with the Station. This cemetery has been overrun by stock.
Transcription of the tombstones was carried out on the 24th March, 1988.
1. MURRAY Edith Murray, my wife & our mother, died 16 May 1940, aged 72 years; also Henry V. Murray, died 14 Feb 1954, aged 89 years, mother & father reunited.
2. MURRAY Peter Herbert Murray, died 3 Aug 1929, aged 36 years. Erected by his father & mother, brothers & sisters.
3. STEVENSON Isabella Stevenson, our mother, died 8 Aug 1931, aged 93 years.
4. STEVENSON William Stevenson, died 20 Oct 1898, aged 62 years. Erected by his wife & children.
5. STEVENSON Elizabeth, died--,--,--. The inscription was almost illegible and the headstone was lying on the ground.
6. WILCOX John Wilcox, native of England, died at Wangarabell Station, Victoria, 6 Aug 1873, died 61 years.
7. MITCHELL Jane Mitchell, died 5 July 1907, aged 85 years. This was a cast-iron headstone and the inscription was very faint.
8. TASKER Charles Tasker, died 24 June 1925, aged 68 years.
9. TASKER Charlotte Tasker, our mother, died 20 June 1948, aged 78 years.
Source: Book 2 - Monumental Inscriptions, Known Graves and War Memorials in the Bega Valley.
Pambula Genealogy Society Inc.
This excerpt below is from the
Bombala and District Historical Society's
Newsletter, 23rd March, 1998 and describes
the history of Rockton and Wangrabelle on
a day's drive with the Bombala and Coastal
historical groups. (Spelling does vary throughout, such as some
family names; I have copied it as it was
OPENING TALK given by Neil Platts of "Mountain Top"
I would like to take this chance to welcome you all. We will endeavour to tell you some of the history of Rockton. We are third generation folk but we can be corrected. I have been helped in organising this tour by Les Hite, Val Vincent, Des Twigg, Betty Bruns, Les Cowell, Keith Brownlie and of course Allan Walker, who has helped so much with the day. There is only one thing he has forgotten, to order the rain to put water over the falls. We will miss a spectacular sight of a wall of water over the Rockton falls.
Les Hite continues:
My grandfather, Tom Hite, first opened a sawmill at Stoney Creek near Towamba. He then shifted the mill to the east of Nungatta and was supplying timber for a mine and settlement in the early 1900s at Yambulla. He then shifted the mill back to Stoney Creek and in September 1927 the mill was moved from Towamba by the Hites and Warburtons. Horse teams and wagons were used to move the mill including machinery, a big steam engine and boiler, to their new site at Rockton know as Hites Mill. Before 1927 it was Tom Hites Mill, after it moved to Rockton is was operated as T.C.Hite and Sons.
Horse teams were used to haul logs and timber up until the mid 1930s. A small crawler tractor was then purchased to haul logs. About this time the first trucks were used and as time went on the trucks became bigger and the machinery larger.
A bigger and better mill was built about 1945, then in 1946 part of the old mill was used by Austin Flanagan, John Richards and Valerie Rodwell's father to cut silver wattle that was sent away to make tennis rackets and furniture. A planer was set in about that time where they air dried timber and made tongue and groove flooring, weather boards, etc. then in about 1956 the mill changed over to diesel fuel cutting timber for the Snowy Mountains, Canberra and Queenbeyan. Around this time the timber carrier, Clive Smith brought a half share in the mill.
The mill was destroyed by fire in late 1959, the site is nearby but there is only a bit of sawdust left. My father was running it when it burnt down, he said he was too old to rebuild it. At the time it was employing 26 men.
This was run at the mill. At first it was run at Neil Platts' that is why it was called 'Platts Post Office'. According to Allan Walker's information it was first opened on the 10th January, 1916 and closed on 13th March, 1959. It became a telephone office from 14th March, 1959 until 14th October, 1959 when it was closed.
Platts Post Office went from Neil's mother over to Veldt's place where the Kimber girls ran the Post Office, then it came down to our mill where my Aunt Dorris ran it for a number of years, then my sister Betty, then my wife, before it was closed down. There are quite a lot of photos there to have a look at, including a photo of the waterfall when it did have water running over it.
Neil pointed out Bruce's Hill, above us, that was known as Plingy Range but the Forestry does change names. Bruce lived at the bottom, that was Eddie Bruce, old Eddie Bruce, most of his family was born there.
I am going to talk about the rifle range which was 800 yards.
They fired from the south into that hill, (pointing to Bruce's Hill). That hill should have quite a lot of lead in it somewhere. The range started in the clear ground that Twiggs owned later, just before the range closed. It ran from the South to the North with mounds every 50 to 100 yards. Shells were fired into Bruces Hill, (known as Plingy's Range in those times). The rifle club began in 1890 and wound up about 1914 or 15 and was affiliated with the Military Forces of the Commonwealth Reserves Rifle Clubs of NSW. Competition was keen with rivals Wangrabelle, Delegate and Bombala clubs.
Targets were not 'Pit Types' where they went up and soen but were semi rigid markers coming in from the side. I don't know how the markers were guarded, whether they went to the side or what provision they had for shelter.
Dances and get-togethers were held to keep this club going, many were held at "Mountain Top", where I live today, or at Rixon's home and Bruce's and also at Flannagan's where they would pull up the lino or carpet and put on a bit of a shindig.
I understand there were some Marteni-Henry rifles used originally which had twice as much power as a .303. Many lighter people that fired them would have to crawl back a foot or so after firing to regain their position.
I did have the minutes of the last meeting of the club but couldn't find them today. Some of the members that I can find were the Platts brothers; they were my father and his brothers, the Umback brothers, the McCloud (McLeod?), Kimbers, Rixons, Glugstons, Brownlies, Flannagans and Ramseys. I have some certificates here of my father and two photos, one with a rifle and one of a gentleman named Moe McCloud.
The area has been milled and pulped. In those times the trees were cut down in a swarth. Since 1915, as mill logs grew back they were milled and more recently pulped. You cannot find the mounds anymore because when you pulp timber you shove it here, there and everywhere. (Incidently, Neil's father lost the Kings Shoot in Sydney by one shot.)
On the other side of the highway, lower down, opposite the old rifle range there is a memory of a teamster. Rankin was his name and he was buried across there. This road we are looking at is a new deviation, the old road went through that timber, (pointing to an area across the highway). Just off the road Mr. Rankin was buried somewhere about 1900 on the left-hand side of the rifle range road. This old road was right on top of the divide.
Rankin had a load on the wagon with some rum. During his stop he indulged heavily and he was found hanging from a tree. I don't know why he hung himself and I don't know who found him but he was buried on the site.
Jack Umback was camped down over the hill on Umback's Reserve, there was a fence line through here. Jack was down there and there was an old chimney, way down towards Calabash Creek (pointing to the SE). He was called and he fell a tree quite near where this accident happened, split it into slabs, made the coffin and they laid the fellow to rest. His grave was marked by four big posts which I remember well until a few years ago a fire went through and the posts were burnt but we still know where the grave was. Now the Forestry has pulped the area and the grave is lost, we can't find it.
That hill, (pointing nearby to the east, over the highway) is Rankin's Hill and on it was the old road known as Rankin's Pinch.
Tom HIte and Lyall Hall founded the feldspar mine opposite Wog Peak, 25 km NE of the sawmill site in the late 1930s. At this time Lyall Hall pulled out and Tom Hite, a keen fosicker for gold and other minerals, started to mine the feldspar which was in demand then for glazing glass and crockery.
The road was hewn out of stone in places and stones were used to pack up the lower side of cuttings.
Late in 1940 the mine closed down when more feldspar became available close to the market in Sydney. A large deposit of feldspar ore still remains in the hill.
Les Hite continues: It was dug out by hand, or blown out with explosives, no jackhammers then. You had a drill that you turned by hand as you hit it with a hammer until you got the hole down. You had a long piece of rod with a little thing like a spoon on the bottom that you took the rock particles out of the hole with, then you blew it out.
It was bagged by hand, loaded onto ex army blitz 4WD trucks and brought back here to the mill. When there was enough stockpiled and a couple of railway trucks available in Bombala for the train, it was transferred back onto the trucks, carted into Bombala and put on the train to go to Sydney.
When asked, Les said it was when he was a boy, about 50 years ago. Les did not know what it was worth but he did turn the drill for his grandfather as he was teaching him how to do it. Neil said it was extremely heavy, the sugar bag sized bags took a strong man to lift them.
Ten to fifteen years ago the shaft of the mine was still open into the side of the hill, but for safety reasons it was closed so that people would not go in and get trapped. We did think we might try to go to that site but there is such a hassel to get there now with all the roads altered so we scapped the idea.
Neil showed us a peice of feldspar that had been brilliantly white.
Les continues: Some of it, when it was blown out, was fairly hard and the other type would come out like sand.
Following morning tea we all went down the hill to the o ld school ground at the junction of the Warrawilla road.
OLD SCHOOL SITE
Neil stood in the back of a ute and described the school and his school days.
The school ground started where those two big posts are, (pointing to a scrubby rise in front of us). Over there on the right the track went straight up to the school and believe it or not, those trees we are looking at are on the school ground that was as clear then as where we are now standing, (on the road). Some of those trees are now 18 inches through.
There are some of us here today that attended the school and probably had a clout with a gum stick as well, which I don't think did us any harm.
There were two separate schools on this site. The first was built by parents with material, money and supplies. I don't remember that school but there are two people here today that went to school in it. The erection of the first school was helped by the Rodwell, Brotherton and Twigg families. It was built by Alby Brotherton in 1936-37 and was sold later to Jack Niven and moved to Wog Wog for a residence.
The second school shortly afterwards was brought from Bunyan and funded by the Government. It was a well built, comfortable weatherboard building and consisted of one large school room with three windows on each side and a locker room and porch. To the west the boys toilet and opposite the girls', behind them the horse paddock as some rode to school on a horse.
The two acres for the first school were donated by William Twigg. The Government resumed these two acres for the second school and now we believe it is under Native Title.
The area between the Warrawilla road and the school was clear with only a few big trees on the eastern side, one of which supported a swing. Hockey and cricket games were played in front of the school.
The school housed many fundraising dances and concerts, some for the ambulance and some for the school itself. A tarp was strung up at the back of he school and food for supers was passed through the window. Four gallon tins, known in those days as kerosene tins, were boiled on a tripod outside. Music was mainly played on accordian, drum and piano. Musicians that come to mind were Jim Walker, Charlie Brotherton, Bill Kimber, Jim Falkner, Mini Beasley, Jack Beileiter, Walter Turnbull and once by George Holmes.
A teacher at the first school was May Trevanian, later May Stuart. Teachers at the new school were Miss O'Neil, Mrs. Blomfield, Madam Marseille a French lady, Jim Falkner, John Peacock and Leo Tamie.
There was no electricity in those days so heating was by wood heater.
The pupils came mainly by truck from HIte's Mill where there were many homes for the 26 employees. some of my companions and myself would ride to Hite's Mill, then join the others on the back of trucks for the trip to the school and never and accident.
Les Hite can remember his father driving the truck. If he was busy or was away carting timber somewhere then the kids would walk, to school and back.
Some kids would walk, others ride a horse or bike or some would come in the odd car. George Farrell would bring some children up from down near the Victorian border by car.
Scripture was taught by the Anglican, Catholic and Presbyterian Ministers, Father Griffan, Bloydew and Canewcook, Anglican and Ashmore, Presbyterian.
Students that I remember: Hites9, Platts 2, Twigg 3, Kennedy 1, Summerrill 4, Jones 6, Brotherton 4, Rodwell 2, Holme 1, Douch 2, Jamerson 1, Knightly 2, McBride 3, Walker 3, Farrell 3, Brodie 2, Niven 1, Kimber 1, McCloud 3, Hall 4, Hydure 2, Sinclair 2, Woodcroft 2, and Beddingfield 1.
The school was moved to Bombala from this site. Les Hite remembers carting the school to Bombala when he was seventeen years old. It has recently been moved again from its Wellington Street site up to the Bright Street school.
Neil continues: It seems unbelievable but there is littel left to see today. If we were to push through the scrub to have a look only a post hole or two where stumps had been pulled out would be seen. It was a good school, we had good teachers and we had enjoyable times, picnics, walks to the river and entertainment.
Les Hite's brothers-in-law was the last school teacher.
We followed Neil's yellow ute half a mile down the highway to a track leading to the /rockton Falls and the site of the old Water Wheel. We left the cars beside the highway and took the 4WDs a mile or so through the pien plantations to the waterfall. Some of us riding in airconditioned comfort and some of us sitting on prickly bales of hay on the back of old farm utes.
The waterfall had only a damp patch remaining on the granite face of the waterfall. The rock pool at it's foot enticed a few younger members ot go paddling whilst the photographers had a field day.
THE OLD WATER POWERED MILL
Les Hite continues: They brought the water from above the right hand side of the falls. You can still see a depression in amongst the scrub and rocks. A few rocks are still visible on the lower side where the water race was. The waterwheel and mill was only fifty yards or so below the falls, just down from the car park. In the vicinity there are still holes in a rock where they had the waterwheel fastened down. Merv Peadon of Bombala knows where they are.
Neil continues: The mill was opened, as far as we know, by McCaffreys and possibly by a chap called Heffernan. It was powered by a twenty foot high waterwheel and was built circa 1890. Years ago a neighbour, an old lady, showed me a photo of the shed section with about twelve workmen standing in front. She could name them all including some of the names I still remember: Egan, Laing, McCaffrey, Flanagan, Kimber and I think Heffernan. Lin Kimber, a man well remembered in Bombala, was the young man in front of the photo.
The mill was stopped by pulling out a panel in the water race. I understand from the old hands that the mill worked well but in wet weather they had terrible trouble getting the sawn timber out. They could snig it in with teams all right but the teams taking it out on wagons used to get bogged. They followed the river down to the main road, then I understand they brought in a track from the western side.
Les continues: When Neil and I were going to school they extended the water race from here right out to the Cann River road, right opposite to where old Paddy Egan used to live. Keith Brownlie said the water was rechannelled in a ring of stringy bark from the old water race to the Cann River road water race, to irrigate Paddy's paddock. The old race was visible for many years until the surrounding bush was cleared.
Les continues: I have two photos showing water coming over the falls. In the winter time you would see the water spread all across the face of the falls. This recent photo shows the pool at the foot of the falls full of water.
Val Vincent addressed the gathering from the top of a large granite boulder: As a child I used to live up on the western side about half a mile away. When the Genoa was in flood you could hear the roar of the falls at nighttime. This is the first time I have been to the bottom of the falls. We used to swim in a pond above the falls. Our road came past the school and went to Roy Brotherton's. The Bondi road was non existant then although there was a bridle track down to Kimber's.
Les continues: The low level bridge over the Cann River road used to be cut off by floods. When I was about seventeen, I can remember my father, a few mill workers and some people from the southern side, building a flying fox to take the mail over the flooded Genoa to Cann River.
We about faced our vehicles, with difficulty, and traced our steps through the hot and barren pine forests to the Cann road; drove a few miles down the Imlay road for lunch at the Whiterock Reserve.
|The old Stevens house at Wangrabelle
This photo was the old Stevens house at Wangrabelle. I was given this photo from my grandmother's collection (Eileen Stevens).
The people are from left to right: Inez Stevens, Granny Bridle, possibly (Susan Bridle), Martha Bridle, Evelyn Jones,
Jack Stevens (Black Jack Stevens) ,Eileen Stevens (Jones) Charlie, Hilda and Mabel Bridle, Ada and William Stevens (Grandparents),
Dink Stevens (baby), Art and Bub Bridle.
Photo courtesy Connie Stevens
ROCKTON - ITS BACKGROUND
Neil continues: Travelling through Rockton today you are seeing a terrible lot of pine and bush, but believe me, it used to be a community of many close-knit families.
Rockton was founded in 1839 by Thomas Luscome and by Ben Boyd in 1848, and in 1855 Captain John Stevenson had the run and about 1861 he selected 4000 acres, he kept the home site and the name 'Bondi'. Then after the Stevenson era the Rockton basin became more or less an Irish settlement.
Dairying: Many families farmed this area, mainly dairy cattle originally until sheep gradually took over following the loss of the first butter factory at Rockton, then the butter factory at Wog Wog, about ten miles away.
Keith Brownlie was told by the old Hayes' that when the rabbits came in the dairies left.
Crops: Some great crops of corn, pumpkins, potatoes and lucerne were grown on the lower flats. Some of you would remember the corn cribs at Rosebank and Bindi, now a thing of the past.
Name Change: Bondi was the name of the area until the first mail service started, when too many hiccups occurred because of Bondi in Sydney and the mail was getting criss-crossed. The name was changed to Rockton.
The River: Through this valley runs a very clear river which rises way back to the west in the Mila catchment area and into Victoria towards Mount Tennison. There are three main tributaries at the top before crossing the highway and then the Calabash and Whiterock on the east of the highway. As you can see, in the present drought, they are only a trickle or have completely stopped.
Old State Boundary: The Bondi River, later the Genoa, was at one time the State boundary. This caused Captain John Stevenson a lot of trouble due to excise and customs between the two colonies. Later, the border in this part of the world became a straight line, but further to the south.
Wattle Bark: Wattle bark was a thriving industry here between 1900 to 1960. Many people made a living stripping wattle bark; at first dried and then cut up by contractors with a version of a chaff cutter. The bagged wattle bark would be transported either to the wharf at Eden or the railway at Bombala. Some of the contractors with cutters were Albert Kimber, the Brotherton brothers, Harry Helmers and sons and Barney, Walter and Bandy Melds. Craig & Mostyn was a major buyer.
In about 1928-30, South Africa had botanists sent to this area collecting wattle seed and studying its habits. Later they were to grow large and successful plantations that supplied the world with their product so the industry died in this and many other areas.
Many of us, when going to school, remember Hayes Bros, George Farrell (known as Bricky) and Dick Barber carting wattle bark in their bullock teams to the cutting sites. The last of the wattle bark strippers to make bundles and send them to Melbourne I remember was Lindsay Goodchild. This was carted by Viv Fleming.
Roads: Roads, of course, have changed, one being the trunk road past the school site and over the Genoa River to McCafferys, Flanagans and Fairweathers, etc. The other road that had changed is the Wog Wog Road up through to Wog, not the newer road now known as the Imlay Road.
Mail: The mail service has been run since the 1800s, first by horseback to Rockton, Wog Wog and Nungatta. One mailman that called in at Platts P.O. on the top of the mountain was Jim Brownlie; he carried in rain, hail and snow. Keith, his son, is amongst us today. Then Jim Walters took the mail to Wog for a short time until the motor car took over. Harry Gee was the first motor postman to service Rockton. The Rockton P.O. was at 'Bindi', Kimber's place. Will Kimber ran the mail to Wog Wog and Nungatta for many years. Sometimes the mail would not be sorted until 3:00 pm. He would stay overnight at Nungatta and return the following day. Reg Woodcroft bought Will Kimber's property 'Bindi' and ran the P.O. and mail run to Nungatta until the early 1970s.
Telephone: As a matter of interest Bob Clugston was the PMG engineer who organised the telephone to Rockton, Wog and Nungatta early this century.
Roland Dent: I would like to mention a person of interest that worked for the shire for 35 - 38 years. He was responsible for the Cann road as well as the side roads. The last 25 years, from the top of the mountain to the Victorian border. He maintained the road with a horse and slide fitted with a grader blade and a cart. Some of you will remember Roland Dent and his big Clydesdale 'Nugget' pulling the cart gip pulling the slide grader.
Kapunda: A private forest development company, 'Kapunda', came into this area in 1970 - 71 and brought farm after farm for pines. All private property, now we see it all covered by pines with some native trees.
Rabbits: Some of this land became marginal mainly due to the rabbit which devastated the herbage and let the wattle and light scrub take over large tracts of land. According to some of the old hands, soils being of granite origin are much to the rabbits' liking. Many men made a living from the rabbit, either skins or sale to the freezer works.
Families: Families that lived in this area were Fairweather, Finigan, Flanagan, Bruce, Hayes, Rixon, Egan, Umback, Smith, McCaffrey, Piesley, Moses, Dickie, Hogg, McCole, Brownlie, Laing, Brasington, Sinclair, Brotherton, Rodwell, Twigg, Lambert, Baily, Jones, Sweeny, Platts, Farrell, Kimber, Brodie, Franklin, Woodcroft, Atkins, Solgyen, Frietag, Lind, Douglas, Skwara, Litchfield, Critchlow and Ventry. Families still owning land: Simmons, Bruns, Jones, Wilton, Hancox, Wiley, Godberg, Provaznik, Payocyok, Kilpatrick, Landini, Grimm, Lorenzi, Hillman and Murdoch.
Wog Wog: Upstream from this spot on Whiterock river, where I am talking to you, Moses selected a property later farmed by the Peisleys. Then it was taken over by Rixons who ran cattle and stripped wattle bark. Keith Brownlie sold this property in recent years to Critchlow and a part to Mr. Murdoch. Alby Critchlow built a castle of interest, (including castellated battlements), later to be sold to Mr. Murdoch.
Above this property on the Whiterock river was the second farm of Fauldine Umback, the founder of the Umback dynasty in the area. He was a man of many inventions. He built a waterwheel and mill for grinding grain. Many locals, including people from the top of the mountain, took their grain to him for grinding into flour. But a sad accident happened when others were at lunch one day. Harry Lesleighter got caught by his overcoat on the wheel or shaft and was killed.
The First School: As we drove from the Genoa bridge we came up Egan's hill. On our right, (but out of sight because of the plantation) across the flat, that used to be part of Jim Egan's, are two big pine trees. They mark the spot of the first school in Rockton. It was of slab construction and served the early settlers well for quite a while until a bit of a feud between a couple took place and a larrikin burnt the school down. This area is now all under pines.
The Swimming Hole: Over the Calabash creek we went, turning left on the old Rockton road, over the old low level bridge and stopped and walked 100 yards upstream to a lovely sheltered pool amongst the granite rocks and trees. Neil continues: This was a place of many parties, summer swims and big gatherings on hot weekends. Many the time the kerro tin was boiled for tea and the camp oven was heated here. The western side of the hole used to be very deep but in the last 20 years it has silted up badly. I remember daring others to touch the bottom on a dive and pick up a stone. Dave Golberg nearly drowned here. He cramped and sank and no one missed him for a short while. Les Hite's father helped to resuscitate him. Dave was the surviving partner of Goldberg Bros. Store in Bombala. Phillips Foodland occupies part of the building today.
Neil continues: Downstream from the bridge and on the western side of the road was the old sports ground and picnic area. In my time school picnics were held here but before that there were picnics run by the local residents. Foot races were run. Martin Hayes, in his youth, held a state record in the 100 yards and could have become a big star if chance had come his way. As well as running, the sports day would include high jump, hop step and jump, hit the stump, nail driving, etc. Today it is difficult to imagine that a cleared flat existed where these trees and scrub now stand.
Eels: Catching eels in this part of the river was a great past time. A light and spear was the order of the day. Many families ate good flavoured silver eels from a clean river in those days.
Butter Factory: 50 yards above us where the new road is now, was the butter factory. The old road was in a similar position to the new road. This must have been about 1865 - 70, as Rockton was mainly dairy farms running Illawarra shorthorn cattle. The Wog Wog Butter Factory took over, as it was more up to date.
This area was known as the factory paddock after the demise of the butter factory and was purchased by Bill Twigg and later by Brodie and Franklin. I have seen the old stone foundation that Brodie had shown me but now it is under pine. A water race on the southern side of the river ran water to the sump cooling the butter.
Polling Booth: As we stand on the old Genoa bridge and face south, on our left and over the river was the homestead of Jim Egan which was used for the polling booth for many years, for Federal, State and Local Council elections up to as recently as the 1960s. Many church services were also held here. My family would have voted here at this house which was destroyed by fire about 1970.
BRUNS FURNITURE FACTORY
Back on to the Cann Valley Highway for a mile or two and right into Betty Brun's property where an emu greeted us. The Bruns Furniture Factory started in 1983. Being great trades people, much fine furniture was made here and many valuable pieces restored. They specialised in kitchens; many installed on the Monaro to the client's design. No job about the home was a problem for Betty and Andy. Tragically fire destroyed the factory in July 1994 but Betty has rebuilt a modern factory at Bombala. Their home was built by themselves to a circular design.
We left our cars and took to the 4WDs again to visit the grave of Captain John Stevenson.
CAPTAIN JOHN STEVENSON
Extract from notes supplied by Betty Bruns. A chronological list of some of his achievements.
|c1779|| Born at "King's Barns", Fifeshire.
Little is known of his early years. It is
said at one time he eloped
with a Lady Rosebery but she soon returned to her father.
|1815||Married his first wife, May Bachelor, who died in 1825 leaving an infant daughter, Amelia.|
|1834||He had been Master of the "Horn", a whaler off Greenland, when she was "Stove in by ice."|
|1835|| Married his second wife, Margaret Small.
* Sailed to Hobart Town together with Agnes Fairweather who was expecting Stevenson's child.
|1836|| Agnes gave birth to William Stevenson.
* He was engaged as Master of the "Lindsays", carrying sheep and cattle between Twofold Bay
* Took his party, including Agnes and their son William, to Snug Cove, Twofold Bay.
* Welcomed by the Imlays for his knowledge of whaling.
|1837||A son was born to his wife Margaret named George Imlay Stevenson.|
|1838|| A daughter was born, Margaret Small Stevenson,
but her mother died in childbed 6 days later
was buried facing the Northern Bay. Agnes now had Margaret's two small children to care for
as well as her son William.
|1839|| Stevenson took out a "Depasturing Licence"
for the Wangrabelle run.
* A son Robert was born to Agnes and Stevenson.
|1840|| Amelia, Captain Stevenson's 15 year old
daughter by his first wife, came out from
to join his new family.
|1841|| He left Snug Cove and went with his family
* John Walter Stevenson born to Agnes and Captain Stevenson.
|Late 1841|| They move to Mallacoota Inlet.
* He becomes perhaps the first to try to grow wheat in Victoria.
* He still wore a cutlass on his belt, but became a disenchanted sailor without a ship.
|1842|| He and James Allen took cattle south to
the Cann River but following an attack by
were forced to return in a hurry.
|1843|| As Mallacoota was a failure, Stevenson moved
* Eden township surveyed.
* William Boyd arrived.
|1844|| Creighton Fairweather Stevenson was born.
Later Walter was born.
|1855||At the age of 75 Stevenson bought the licence to the Bondi Run.|
|1865|| At the age of 85 he secretly married his
"The Captain's wife at last! But Agnes was not essential. She had been through too much,
and besides, she knew it was not her feelings that the old man was thinking about. He was
thinking about the smooth inheritance of his properties by his children.
At the ceremony she put her cross on the page and watched as Amelia witnessed that
it was her mark."
|1874|| Captain Stevenson died at 95.
"He was carried up the hillside to where his son Gordon was buried. He was buried in a standing
position so he could look over his lands."
|1878||Agnes died aged 78 at Bondi where she is buried beside her husband.|
At one time the Bondi River (now Genoa) was the boundary between Victoria and NSW; Bondi would have been in Victoria. Due to the prohibitive tariffs operating between the States Bondi would how be non-viable.
Stevenson's holdings disintegrated but today John Stevenson Junior and Laura's great grandson, Robert Campbell, farms "Glenmare", a property not that far away from the old Bondi area.
Neil spoke a little more of Stevenson as we sheltered under two of the original four acacias and the one English laurel.
People from the coast are interested in Stevenson, he had an early association with Twofold Bay and the Imlay Brothers, with whaling, and as a Master of "Lindsays", taking sheep and cattle to Tasmania. Then he had a dispute with the Imlays and worked in with Ben Boyd. He had interest in Wangrabelle and founded Mallacoota, he then moved up the Genoa River and selected 'Bondi', eventually controlling 100,000 acres.
I will read a few paragraphs out of his history, there are a few descendants still living in the area. Bob Campbell of Mila, Geoffrey Wilson our mailman and one branch of the Piesley family.
Maureen Piesley's great great grandfather came out to Australia with Boyd and was a blacksmith to Ben Boyd. His name was Patrick Linegar and he later worked in Bombala as a blacksmith.
Neil also pointed out that when Creighton Stevenson sold "Lindon", at Mila, the property was bought by Robert Stevenson and has been in this family for nearly 100 years. This Robert Stevenson is no relation at all to Captain Stevenson.
Captain Stevenson arrived at Twofold Bay before the end of the whaling season of 1836. He sailed the 'Lindsays' through the wide headlands of the great bay and headed towards the point that divided the bay into two. Tucked into the southern shore of the point was Snug Cove where the Imlay Brothers had established their whaling and shipping station nearly three years before. The dense green of the eucalyptus forests came down to the shore right round the bay except for the cleared area around Snug Cove.
A small group of crude huts stood on the shore where the few white members of the party lived. The huts were of mostly bark construction. Well back on the beach were the large boilers used for rending down whale blubber after the whales were dragged onto the beach and cut to pieces. Nearby was a bark shelter containing the kegs in which the whale oil was stored and shipped to Hobart. Along the beach smoke rose from the fires of the Aboriginal camp. On land rising behind Snug Cove cattle and horses grazed in fenced areas. At the western end of the cove, in what became known as Cattle Bay, a 'race' had been constructed leading right into the water. This was used to load cattle like those that Captain Stevenson had taken to Hobart a few weeks before. One animal at a time would have a strap placed round it and a rope tied to its horns so it could be dragged by a small boat, swimming in the deep water to where the ship was anchored. There the sling was attached to a rope on the ship so that the beast could be hauled aboard. The loading of one hundred or more cattle must have taken a lot of time and effort.
Peter Imlay had come first to Twofold Bay late in 1832, fascinated by stories of how killer whales helped Aborigines and early whalers capture and kill the Great Right Whales, which came into the bay to calve. Realising the potential of the area Peter Imlay persuaded his brother, Dr. Alexander Imlay, to join him in setting up the venture in 1833. They were joined by the third brother, Dr. George Imlay, in 1835. The Imlays welcomed John Stevenson's expert knowledge of the whaling industry. At the time the crews of the whaling boats were almost entirely local Aboriginal men who proved to be the most skilled whalers. They understood the movements of the whales in the bay, though they sometimes lacked the stamina required for the long haul back to the beach with a whale in tow. This was hard work for anyone in those five or seven oared whaling boats. The Imlays treated the Aboriginal people well, giving them equal pay and caring for their medical welfare, too. A friendly, cooperative relationship developed between the whites and Aborigines, which was almost unique in the early settlements of Australia.
The Imlay brothers took up most of the good land in the surrounding districts and established a trade in sheep and cattle to Tasmania and South Australia. Dr. George Imlay claimed the land along Bega River to the north.
The coming of Ben Boyd to New South Wales was to have considerable effect on the Stevenson family. The first of his ships, the sail and paddle-steamer 'The Sea Horse', arrived at Sydney in June 1841, and Boyd's other ships, with which he planned to develop a coastal trading fleet, arrived in the following months. James Allan came as a carpenter on one of those ships and found his way to join Captain Stevenson. He came from the same township in Scotland as Stevenson but he was thirty-five years younger than the captain.
In search of better land, James Allan and Stevenson took cattle south to the Cann River, planning to start a run there, but they were attacked by Aborigines. There is a story that Allan ran all night and did not stop running until he reached Wangrabell the next day.
When Boyd arrived in Sydney in July 1842 he requested the right to purchase an area of land on the southern shore of Twofold Bay in order to create a whaling station and a base for his coastal trading fleet. In 1843 the Government had a township for Eden surveyed. Boyd was granted the land on the southern shore and immediately started creating his own township Boydtown. The most important building was the 'Sea Horse Inn' for which he had the sandstone blocks shipped down from Sydney. Boyd appointed his artist friend, Oswald Brierly, to be manager of his enterprises but Boyd himself made only brief visits to the area.
Family stories are strong that Captain Stevenson knew Boyd and helped him with his whaling enterprise. Having fallen foul of the Imlays he may have been pleased to help their greatest rival in the competition for the whales which were quickly declining in numbers. Laura, his daughter-in-law who nursed him in his old age, believed that Stevenson had run some kind of store at Boydtown.
Boyd was in Australia to create a fortune for himself. In 1844 he started to purchase the licences to numerous 'runs' all over the state. He believed that these properties would be a valuable investment if the runs could be converted to freehold. Members of his family were in part able to achieve this objective by having the English Parliament pass the Australian Land's Act of 1846 which gave licence holders greater security of tenure of their runs by allowing them to convert their annual licences to leases of up to fourteen years.
By 1848 Boyd's runs included Bondi on the upper Genoa River, and Wog Wog at Towamba. But by the end of the 1840s all Boyd's enterprises had failed and he fled in his beautiful ship, the 'Wanderer' to make his fortune on the Californian goldfields. This venture failed, too, and Boyd is presumed to have died on one of the Solomon Islands on the return journey to Australia in about July 1851. By then his properties were being sold by officials of his bank, the Royal Bank of Australia.
By the end of 1843 the Stevensons realised that their farming venture at Mallacoota could not succeed, so the base for the family was moved to Wangrabelle, a journey of about fifty kilometres up the Genoa River.
Even today, in 1996, in a modern motor vehicle this journey is a wilderness experience, at least the latter part of it is. A dirt track leads off the Princes Highway a little north of the site of the old Genoa stockyards and winds its way round hill and over gullies, through the densest forest you can imagine. It is a starkly beautiful drive. But how did Agnes, Jessie, Amelia and the children make the journey in the days when there was nothing but a path leading up the river? Perhaps the smaller children sat in a row on a horse's back and packhorses carried their few belongings. Everyone else would probably have walked. Somewhere through this area there was a well worn path which had been used each year for countless centuries by coastal Aboriginal tribes as they made their way to the highlands for the annual feast of Bogong moths. Perhaps they were able to follow this path.
On January 9, 1855, Mort & Co. Auctioneers of Sydney, held an auction to dispose of the leases to many of the runs Boyd had taken up in his own name or in the name of the Royal Bank of Australia. Included in the list were Bondi on the Genoa River and Wog Wog on the Towamba River. Captain Stevenson must have bought the licence to the Bondi Station run at that auction or soon afterwards. What amazing strength and energy he must have had to embark on such a venture at the age of seventy-five years or more!
Agnes and the younger children set off to move another fifty kilometres up the river. The increased elevation would make the climate a little drier and cooler but the land was poor. The stories of 'old timers' suggest that the forest areas were more open in those early days, with grasses on which roaming stock could graze. But the roaming cattle spread other plants and soon the lower area of the forest were full of tea tree and weeds and the vast runs became unproductive. Today, much of the original Bondi run is covered by extensive plantations of pine forests called "the Bondi State Forest".
The homestead block was an area of cleared rolling hills with narrow river flats fronting the Genoa River. At this point the river was a beautiful, clear mountain stream, and called the Bondi River in those days. The homestead had been built on the point of a low ridge, a couple of hundred metres from the river, making water collecting a difficult task, but keeping it well above flood level. Today, just a few very old fruit trees, apples and pears, and a modern stock yard mark the place of the old homestead, thirty-three kilometres south of Bombala on the Cann River (Valley) Highway.
We followed Neil's yellow ute faithfully up the mountain, past "Mountain Top" through clearings and bush, up hills and down valleys for what seemed to be several hundred very dusty miles to the site of the Killarney Swamp Peat Mine. Had we shown up on time (it was now 5.30pm) Peter Williams would have shown us around. Peter has been running cattle on the swamp for years.
All that is left are some concrete foundations and a very muddy large hole in the ground. In Peter's opinion the peat was overstated. It was not sphagnum moss (Irish moss) but was derived from decaying ferns. They had great trouble drying the peat. At one stage they used a giant microwave oven in the attempt to dry it. A large oil powered heater was also used at another time.
Millions of dollars of peat is imported into Australia and this venture was an attempt to make use of the 15 foot thick peat deposit at Killarney. A floating dredge excavated the peat and pumped the slurry to shore. However, a workman was drowned and the peat mine folded.
Les Hite and his father extracted some timber from the area but in one wet winter they had to knock off for a week to corduroy half a mile of track to enable them to get the logs out.
John and Jeanne Cleret from Mila made a donation to the Bombala Society of a map of the Mahratta Subdivisional settlement sale in 1912 showing the 47 blocks sold and the amounts paid. They also donated early school attendance books from the Mila and Killarney Swamp schools.
We all thanked the Cleret's for their donations and thanks also to Neil, Les, Keith, Val, Phyllis, Betty and all those who attended to make today a memorable occasion.