Old Braidwood, the District over a Century Ago

3 September 1943 The Braidwood Dispatch and Mining Journal 

Hon. T. D. Mutch Delves Into the Past. 

(To the Editor of the 'Dispatch' )

Sir, - I have read with great interest the article on the 'Early Days at Lower Boro' in your issue of July 9, which you were kind enough to hand me during my visit with the Board of Fire Commissioners to Braidwood recently, and it occurred to me that you might appreciate a few comments thereon. 

Mr. William Roberts has certainly told a colourful story of the experiences of the early settlers in the district, and I hope he and others will follow it up with more information of the same kind.

It is a fact that while the main outlines of the history of Australian exploration and settlement can be obtained with a little diligence, it is very difficult indeed to find authentic records of the social life of the people in the pioneering days - their foods, clothing, implements, vehicles, types of stock and methods of cultivation, wages, recreations, and such like.

These, the simple things, are seldom put on record; and it is these things that the historians and the novelists of the future will search for.

It may be said that they are of no importance, but this is not so.

For example, it would be well worth while to ascertain why the first-born children of those who came out with Governor Phillip, who were, so far as we can ascertain, of an average height of 5ft. 6m., grew into Hawkesbury "Cornstalks" of 6ft.

Was it because they were fed on simple foods grown on virgin soil in a land full of sun-shine?

Or was it that their parents were undersized because they had been undernourished? 

I will not dwell on this theme. Mr. Roberts' article prompts other questions, also, which I do not propose to deal with here.

I will confine myself to the purely historical references in his article, in some of which he has unfortunately fallen into error.

He states:-  

(a) That John Roberts came to Sydney with his family in 1835. 

(b) That soon after they arrived, gold was discovered at Bathurst, and they therefore set out for the gold-field.   

(c) That, guided by a crude map, they found themselves at Lake Bathurst, which they had mistaken for Bathurst. 

(d) That, in those days there was no road over the Blue Mountains. 

(e) That, at Lake Bathurst, one man claimed to own all the land. 

(f) That they then decided to blaze their own track through the bush, and struck Boro Creek, which they followed to its junction with the Shoalhaven River, which is described as ďan isolated spot.Ē 

Presuming the first statement, that John Roberts came to Sydney in 1835, to be correct, and there is no reason to doubt it, the answers to the other statements are as follows:-

(b) The discovery of gold at Bathurst was not known until April, 1851 that is, 16 years after the arrival of John Roberts. 

(c) There were plenty of good maps of the colony in 1835, and there was a surveyed road at least as far as Bungonia, where a township had been planned In 1833, building allotments sold, and, in 1834, an inn, gaol and courthouse had been commenced, and a church almost completed. 

(d) The first road over the Blue Mountains had been opened in 1815; by 1833 the third road on Lapstone Hill had been completed, and the stone bridge built by David Lennox was available for the use of traffic. 

There was another road over the Blue Mountains known as 'Bell's Line,' surveyed in 1823; this went from Kurrejong over Mt. Tomah to what is now known as Bell, and later to Wallerawang. 

(e) Lake Bathurst locality had been well settled, by a number of settlers, in 1835. In those days exploration was followed rapidly by settlement, especially if the discovery of good land had been reported, and Lake Bathurst was discovered by James Median, on April 3, 1818 - 17 years earlier.

(f) Boro Creek and the surrounding district had been surveyed from end to end long before 1835; this is clearly shown on Major (later Sir) Thomas Mitchell's Map of the Colony, published in England in 1834; while there were earlier maps published in the Colony. 

The fact is that the country between Bungonia and Braidwood had been well traversed by explorers, surveyors and stockmen looking for grazing country in the early twenties. 

There is no doubt that John Roberts was in the Boro Creek district in 1835, for a notice issued from the Chief Secretary's office on December 1st of that year states that he applied for permission to purchase 100 acres in Argyle, parish then unnamed, bounded on the south by Boro Swamp and on the west by the Inverary road.

This was followed by an application dated 12th July, 1836, for an an- nual lease of three areas, one of 1000 acres opposite the Junction of Boro Creek, and the Shoalhaven, and opposite the grant of Charles James Bullivant; the second of 800 acres adjoining; and a third of 650 acres adjoining the other two.

John Roberts was successful in securing all three leases.

It is not clear how long he held these leases, for in the following year the first area of 1000 acres was applied for by John Ralfe

The property referred to by Mr. William Roberts as "Virginia Waters" was first held as a grant promised to Charles James Bullivant.

This was authorised by Sir Ralph Darling on 3rd April, 1827, as a "primary grant," and comprised an area of 640 acres" 'at Bora, near Kurraducbidgee" (now Larbert).

The title deeds for this property were issued to John Roberts on 26th October, 1840. 

There was another Roberts in the district in those days. This was William Roberts, who had a farm of 640acres on the southern side of Jembaicumbene Swamp, adjoining his own and the farm of George Hills.

(Query: Was he related to John Roberts of Boro?). 

The following description of the "Great South Road," taken from the N.S.W. Calendar and Directory for 1832, may interest the "old-timers" of your district: - "At 116 miles (from Sydney), Bungonia Creek.

A mile and a half up this creek is Bradbury's station, and at 2ľ miles the new line (of road) crosses it, where, on the south bank, the reserve for the township of Bungonia has been fixed by Government. 

(As previously stated, in 1834, two years later, am inn, gaol, courthouse and church were under construction, and building allotments sold).

"At 118 miles: Mitchell's station. 

"at 121 miles: On the left, Inverary.

Dr. Reid, J.P. who was one of the first to advance into this country, when quite uninhabited, resides here. 

A mile to the right is Lumley, a very beautiful estate of Robert Futter, Esq., J.P., and near Dr. Reid's the present road to Lake Bathurst turns to the right, crossing near Mr. Futter's the new south road which has only been surveyed and marked thus far.

The present road, having thus separated into two branches, one continuing southward, the other leading to Lake Bathurst, the following stations, to which it leads in the first direction, are taken as a continuation of it:-

"At 123 miles: Jacqua, a farm of Dr. Reid's. 

"At 124 miles: Yaralla Creek and Leighton's farm, called Yaralla

"At 128 miles: Buganora Creek.

"At 129 miles: Currandulla Creek. 

"At 130 miles: Windellama Creek. 

From this neighbourhood there is a track in a south-easterly direction leading across the Budjong and Narjongoolmar (Nadgigomar) Creeks and the Shoalhaven River and by a circuitous north-easterly course to Nerriga, the estate of G. Galbraith, Esq., from whose neighbourhood it is supposed a road may be formed to Jer vis Bay. 

"At 137 miles: Cross Budjong Creek, and at 138 miles, Curra Creek. 

ďAt 145 miles: Cross Boro Creek. 

ďAt 152 miles: Township of Kurraducbidgee; also the estate ('Arnprior') of Stewart Ryrie, Esq. (Kurraducbidgee is now Larbert). 

ďAt 162 miles: On the right are Mount Goruck and Tallerang Pic.

There is also on the right a path leading to the Molonglo Plains, Butmaroo Flat, and the farms on the south east of Lake George.

On the left, across the Shoalhaven, is Gillamatong Mount.

Along the east bank of the Shoalhaven from Kurraducbidgee to Jembaicumbene swamp is the large church (and school) grant of 42,467 acres; and to the east of this grant are extensive tracts of land, the grants of Measre. Ryrie, Wetherall, Bunn, Dlxon, McKellar, Wilson,Coghill, McVitie, etc, 

"At 168 miles: The farm of D. McKellar, called Bombay. (In. the 1833 Calendar this is renamed Gengoming).

On the left the Jembaicumbene swamp.

On this swamp are the farms of (William) Roberts, Hill, Seymour, Hawkins and Dr. Reid, end a pathway leads down into Araluen, a curious valley.

(In the 1833 Calendar is added, "Araluen, the property of C. H. Burnell, Esq."). 

"At 171 miles: Jinero, the estate of Major Elrington. 

"At 174 miles: Ballalaba, a large flat where farms have been recently selected by Messrs. Cowper and Sadler. 

"At 177 miles: The Ooramea (Oran meir) joins the Shoalhaven. 

"At 190 miles: Krawarree (in the 1833 Calendar it is spelt Carawarey) on the Shoalhaven, recently selected as grants by Messrs. Curlewis and Burke.

About 12 miles further up the Shoalhaven takes its rise in a swamp under a hill called Corumburoo, from whence the road continues onward to Monaroo Plains, to the land behind Twofold Bay, and other fine tracts. 

Messrs. Cooper and Levey, Raine, Brooks, Jenkins, Hawdon, etc., have stations and very large herds of cattle fattening on their southern plains even as far as Cape Howe." 

In the above I have taken the spelling as it appears in the old Calendar of 1832, adding only corrections in parentheses.

The extract gives, I think, a very clear picture of the settlement along the line of this Great South Road, as it was called in those days, though, of course, it was quite unformed, and except to about five miles south of Bungonia unsurveyed. 

Braidwood and Araluen both appear on Mitchell's Map of 1834, though Braidwood is not mentioned in the above description.

There was, however, a Court of Petty Sessions held in Braidwood in 1837.

It will be seen that the district was well settled in 1835, all the best land haying been taken up by then. 

If the foregoing does nothing more than to remind the "old hands" of the early days, and to induce them to give you more of their reminiscences, as in the case of Mr. William Roberts, of "'Glenchattan," I shall be well content with this short contribution to the district's history. 

Yours, etc., T. D. Mutch

Member of Council Royal Australian Historical Society.