DISCOVER OUR HISTORY - take a step back in time
Eurobodalla has a heritage that traces back over 20,000 years.
The geology of the region is fascinating and the rich soils and abundant seas have sustained communities here for countless generations. A good place to start an appreciation of this country are through the stories of the earliest aboriginal custodians.
Our Aboriginal History
The Eurobodalla is located in Yuin country which stretches from the Shoalhaven River to the Victorian border. The Yuin area is made up of many language groups, including the Dharumba, Djirringanj, Dhawa and Dhurga. There were clans under the Yuin who lived by the coast or inland. The Brinja Yuin people occupied land from south of the Moruya River to the Wagonga Inlet.
There is significant evidence of a people who hunted, gathered seafood, traded and established strong spiritual bonds with this country and while number dwindled from the 1880's onwards and clans were directed to reserves this coastline continues to serve its aboriginal families via hard won traditional fishing rights. Mogo, Moruya and Bodalla are the three principle towns where our local Koori population live.
Click HERE to read more on our Aboriginal and Early Settler history
Gulaga (also known as Mount Dromedary) is a local mountain of HIGH aboriginal significance
Gulaga (Mount Dromedary) is located at the southern end of the Eurobodalla towering over the Tilba towns. The mountain has great spiritual significance to local Aboriginal people, particularly Aboriginal women. The Gulaga National Park was handed back to its traditional Aboriginal owners in an historic agreement in 2006.
There is a popular, though solid 14km (up and back) walk from Pam's Store at Tilba Tilba to the top of Gulaga which takes 5 hours or so. The track is easy to follow traversing along an old gold mining road so the mountain also has white-fella history. There are pit toilets at the top and drinking water maintained by the park rangers.
Cheryl Davison, a local Koori artist tells the story of Gulaga and Gulaga's two sons, Barranguba and Najanuga here
Be sure to visit Batemans Bay oldest building; Guy's Store in Clyde Street which has been recently restored. It and the neighbouring residence were originally built in timber in 1869. In 1877 they were upgraded to convict made bricks that came to Batemans Bay as ship's ballast. It's believed the construction was done by convicts based up river at Nelligen. The store serviced travellers, timber cutters and gold miners. There was also accommodation and a coach house. By the 1920s it was trading as Thomsen's Store.
BATEMANS BAY History
The best place to start with the history of the Batemans Bay area is at the Old Courthouse and Police Residence Museum. Managed and operated by volunteers from the Clyde River and Batemans Bay Historical Society this museum has lots of local history as well as an interesting collection of artefacts and photographs.
The Old Courthouse Museum was opened in 1985 when a new courthouse was built in Batemans Bay. It took ten years for the building, built in 1905, to be moved to its present position at Museum Place. During this time, the Department of Education offered Nelligen's former one-room schoolhouse and the two buildings were joined together.
A Brief history of Batemans Bay:
Prior to European settlement several Aboriginal groups - the Walbanga, Murrinjari and Bergalia tribes - all part of the Yuin language group - lived in the area.
In 1770, when Captain James Cook sailed by on April 22, 1770 on the Endeavour he named Batemans Bay after Nathaniel Bateman whom he had previously sailed with. The first whites to pass through the area was in 1797 when survivors from a wreck of the coast of Victoria made it to the Clyde River. Nine of them died in the Batemans Bay area and the others crossed the Clyde River in a canoe they found. Three reached Sydney.
In December that year George Bass sailed south. On December 14th 1797 he reached Batemans Bay. It wasn’t until 1821 that the schooner Snapper arrived in the Bay. The small island in Batemans Bay is named after that vessel.
The following year Lieutenant Johnston, skipper of the Snapper, returned with explorers Alexander Berry and Hamilton Hume. Berry identified the area as suitable for settlement and timber gathering.
Batemans Bay was established as a settlement in the 1830s. Surveyor Hoddle named the Tollgate and Tollhouse islands, now known as the Tollgates in 1827. Nelligen became the major town and port in the region in the 1860s.
In the 1870s a hand powered punt was installed at Nelligen to cross the Clyde River providing a shortcut from inland to the area north of Batemans Bay. A motor powered punt was installed crossing the Clyde River at Batemans Bay in 1915.
After the Second World War the town crew. Plans were set in place to construct a bridge across the Clyde River which was opened in 1956 with a bridge at Nelligen opening in 1964 that saw the punts finally decommissioned.
Batemans Bay Heritage Museum.
Address: 3 Museum Place, Batemans Bay NSW 2536
Opening hours are- Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday: 10.00am to 3.00pm.
Additional hours by appointment and during school holidays.
Tel: (02) 4472 1635 Website: www.batemansbayheritagemuseum.com
As you walk around town you might like to follow the Batemans Bay History Walk Map.
NELLIGEN History is just a few minutes away from the Batemans Bay CBD however it could be a lifetime.
Just upstream on The Clyde River is the port of Nelligen. It is still classified as a port because it had long served as a primary port for the South Coast.
Development came rapidly to the area in the mid 1800's, firstly with timber cutters in the district cutting all they could to supply the demands of the rapidly expanding city of Sydney.
By 1835 the Colonial Secretary petitioned for a road to be constructed across the Clyde Mountain range from Braidwood to Batemans Bay so that inland settlers "might ship their wool and receive supplies”. It was finished in 1856, such was the difficulty of terrain.
Soon after gold was discovered inland and to the south at Araluen and Majors Creek and everyone coming in to try their luck landed at Nelligen or Moruya, first by sailing ship and then by steamer. In the mid 1850's steamships as large as 10,000 tons were venturing up the Clyde River to the Port of Nelligen.
Nelligen became the main port for Araluen when sand bars blocked the mouth of Moruya River. Each of 500 horses & bullocks were kept on standby to haul supplies for the 15,000 miners
Follow the Historic Plaques (The Nelligen Town history guide can be found HERE)
Through the initiatives of the local historical group a series of informative plaques have been erected at significant historical points around the town. Start in the park beside the Clyde River where you will find a plaque with a map of the original town. The map identifies 24 sites of historic interest that tell about the town and its history including the Steampacket Hotel, the Old School Site and the Bushrangers Tree. The stump is all that remains of the big gum tree that local bushrangers, the Clarke Brothers, were chained to before they were taken to Sydney for trial in 1867.
Bushrangers were rife during the gold mining boom. When you visit Nelligen look for the big old stump of a tree near the bridge where they first chained convicts to for several days as they were being moved back and forth between squatter projects on the coast and their gaols inland at Goulburn and Braidwood. Then it was referred to as the Prison Tree and with the Clarke Bros became the Bushrangers Tree.
For those who love their history: The Nelligen Main Street Study is an excellent report that looks at the history of the town as it was and as it remains today.
Prior to European settlement several Aboriginal groups - the Walbanga, Murrinjari and Bergalia tribes - all part of the Yuin language group - lived in the area. Mogo is the Dhurga word for stone (Stone Axe). Mogo remains as a centre for the Aboriginal population of the area. Mogo was established during the Gold Rush after a gold find was reported in 1851. After the boom the town survived as a sleepy highway town, and during the 1990s was revitalised with the growth in regional tourism.
There is much evidence that the Yuin people were living around Broulee for thousands of years before European settlement. It is known that they lived mainly on fish and crustaceans and kept with possum skin coats. These stories are still handed down today and Nth Broulee Beach is still fished by local aboriginal families
The area was surveyed in 1828 by Thomas Florance who named the district Broulee. By the late 1820s pastoralists had moved into the area. By 1836 the bay on the north side of Broulee Island was a hive of activity loading and unloading sailing boats.
It was considered safer than the mouth of the Moruya River where a dangerous sand bar caused difficulties for smaller ships and prevented access by larger ones. It was around this time that John Hawdon wrote to the Governor asking that Broulee be surveyed so he could build a store and jetty so he could ship produce to Sydney.
In 1837 the Surveyor-General advised the Colonial Secretary: "Browlee, which may be called East and West Browlee, being divided in two parts by a narrow neck of sand subject to be overflowed by very high tides, appears not to possess any favourable features for the formation of a town. The harbour is too open and the space for laying out streets is limited ... the place seems too unimportant for any considerable expenditure on the erection of public buildings and without them a town would never be formed."
Broulee was surveyed (it included eight streets and 55 blocks on Broulee Island) and gazetted in 1837. Land sales commenced in 1840 with speculators like John Hughes and John Hosking purchasing 1170 acres at the north end of Broulee. They did not attempt to settle in the district and by 1841 they had both gone bankrupt.
In 1839 a Police Station was established at Broulee and that same year Broulee became the site of the first court in the Moruya district. At the time there were about 100 convicts under police jurisdiction working on farms in the hinterland.
In 1840 a post office was opened. Mail arrived once a week from Braidwood. By 1841 Broulee port was being used by whaling and coastal sailing vessels with as many as six vessels anchored offshore and one local writing "Broulee is becoming daily of greater importance; scarcely a day passes with the arrival or departure of some vessel."
In 1841, the schooner Rover, went aground near Candlagan Creek and the crew members were rescued by a group of Yuin people who formed a human chain through the surf.
A report in the Sydney Gazette noted: "As the men dropped from her [the Rover] their only chance was to get washed in by the surf within reach of the blacks, who were doing their utmost to save as many as possible, for which they merit great praise".
In appreciation Captain William Oldrey presented every member of the tribe with a commemorative brass plate featuring an etching of the ship and an Aboriginal figure.
It was also in 1841 that Captain William Oldrey built the district's first hotel on the northern end of Broulee Island. It was named Erin-Go-Bragh (Ireland Forever) and is recognised as the first settlement and first hotel on the far South Coast. In 1841 a flood washed away the sand bar at the mouth of the Moruya River and overnight vessels started sailing up the Moruya River rather than stopping at Broulee.
An abiding problem for Moruya has been the transportation of goods to and from its markets. The delight of the farmers on the Moruya River when the bar at the mouth was washed out in 1841, permitting coastal shipping to use the river, was short lived.
It closed over again. For 70 years after they abandoned Broulee Bay as their port the debate raged as to whether they should reopen it or not. A number of alternatives were tried. From time to time coastal shipping did enter the Moruya River and load for the Sydney or interstate markets, but boats were lost on the bar and delays in bad weather were a problem. Smaller boats were tried, to move goods from the river to Batemans Bay or Nelligen to be re-loaded onto the Illawarra Steamship Company's larger boats travelling regularly to Sydney, but there was the double handling and even for small boats the Moruya bar was dangerous and sometimes impossible.
At times goods were hauled to the Clyde over rough tracks and steep hills. Narooma was tried as a port and in 1884 they ran a tramway ( it can still be found) from Bodalla to the Wagonga inlet, but it didn't work well.
In the 1850's they tried Tuross Lake as a port. One steamer made it through the entrance but was trapped in the Lake for seven weeks when the bar closed over behind it. The 'entrance' to the Lake was there only at times, and it could shift its position dramatically from one tide to the next. A permanent solution to Moruya's problem was not found till road transport became available
In 1851 gold was discovered at Araluen and on smaller creeks between Araluen and Moruya. A new and improved road to Araluen saw Moruya functioning as the region's service centre and the population of Broulee dropped back to a single individual.
In 1859 the court, which had been moved from Broulee to Glenduart in 1852, was relocated to Moruya. The Erin-Go-Bragh Hotel was also shifted from Broulee Island to Campbell St, Moruya by Abraham Emmott who opened it as the 'Beehive' store.
In 1873 the vegetation on the tombolo between Broulee Island and the mainland was removed to widen the track to the island but, after a particularly violent storm, the sea broke through and the island became ... an island. By 1892 Broulee had effectively been abandoned.
In the 1920s shell grit was mined on the northern side of Broulee Island and shipped to Sydney for use in cement production and by 1926 people were starting to buy surveyed blocks of land (they had been surveyed in 1837) in the town and were building holiday shacks.
In 1964 all the land on Broulee Island was resumed by the Eurobodalla Shire Council. In 1972 it was declared a Nature Reserve.
One of the first recorded visits by non-Aboriginals to the Eurobodalla was by the Captain James Cook and the Endeavour on 22 Apr 1770. In June 1828 Surveyor Thomas Florance surveyed the coast from Batemans Bay to Moruya adopting Aboriginal names for Broulee, Tomakin, Candlagan Creek and Moruya.
The name Moruya is derived from an Aboriginal word, (phonetically) mherroyah, meaning "home of the black swan". Black swans can still be seen in the lakes and rivers around Moruya, and the black swan is used locally as an emblem.
The area is the traditional home of two tribes: the Walbanga and the Brinja-Yuin. European settlement commenced in the 1820s
The town centre was surveyed in 1850 and the town gazetted in 1851. Joseph and Flett Louttit (read the fascinating history of Loutitt and Moruya granite HERE) from the Orkney Islands established a granite quarry on the southern bank of the Moruya River in the late 1850’s and quarrying for granite commenced producing stone for many Sydney landmarks including the pillars of the General Post office in Martin Place, and the base of the Captain Cook statue in Hyde Park. The quarry on the northern side of the Moruya River saw 250 stonemasons employed from 1925 to 1932 to cut granite blocks for the Sydney Harbour Bridge pylons.
Be sure to visit historic Quarry Park on North Head Drive which is located on the shoreline of the Moruya River. There you will find a boardwalk leading to a rotunda that has a display of the history of the area. This park is the quarry site for the pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Moruya has an excellent local history museum at 85 Campbell Street, Moruya - Museum Opening Hours: 10am to 12pm Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. During January Open every day except for public holidays. They also have an excellent website.
As you walk around town you might like to follow the Moruya History Walk Map.
TUROSS HEAD History
The Brinja Yuin people occupied land from south of the Moruya River to the Wagonga Inlet. Their population was estimated to be about 1000-1500 prior to first European settlement in this area.
The first of the pioneer European settler, John Hawdon, arrived to Tuross Head arrived in 1832. The next round of pioneer settler was in 1860 when Patrick Mylott bought the Tuross Head holdings from the “Narrows” eastward. They built “Tuross House” overlooking the lakes and sea. The land was farmed until his wife Mary sold the property to Hector McWilliam in 1925 who then developed the village it is today.
Take time out and enjoy some of the rich history of Tuross Head history below:
An overall history : 20,000 years in 19 glossy pages of quick, light reading.
Early Tuross Pioneers: The story of John Hawdon and Patrick Mylott
Eva Mylott : International Contralto and Mel Gibson's grandmother
Wolfe Point : Tragedy on the river bar
Hector McWilliam: The Father of modern day Tuross Head
The story of the Tuross Norfolk Pines: Over 400 Norfolk Island pines still stand
Tuross Head, The Early years: Tuross Head from the 1920s onwards
The Boatshed histories : Learn of the rich history of maritime life on the Tuross River
The full history of the Tuross Boatsheds is HERE
As you walk around town you might like to follow the Tuross Head Walking Guide.
Bodalla is the birthplace of Australia’s commercial cheese industry thanks to the efforts of Thomas Sutcliffe Mort (1816-1878), one of the nineteenth century’s greatest industrial visionaries, who made Bodalla his country home. The name Bodalla is derived from the Yuin word for the area ‘Botally’, thought to mean ‘haven for boats’ or ‘several waters’.
Bodalla’s history is therefore synonymous with dairying and the Mort family who owned the Bodalla Estate for 127 years. Mort’s enterprises range from the auction of wool and pastoral properties, mining, building ships and railway locomotives, and he pioneered the refrigerated export of Australian meat.
Mort’s association with Bodalla began in 1855 when he financed squatter John Hawdon’s purchase of ‘Botally’, acquiring a half share in the property himself. In 1860 he acquired the entire property.
At Bodalla Mort changed cheese production from a cottage industry into a large scale factory system when milk from different sources was manipulated in 1864 to produce a uniform quality cheese to rival English imports. Bodalla became ‘one of the few showplaces of the industrial progress and enterprise of the Colony’. Ideas developed there were taken up by dairy farmers elsewhere.
The ‘village’ of Bodalla was initially on the river flats but floods in the 1860s and 1870 prompted Mort to establish a new village on higher ground to service the Estate and its many families.
Today Bodalla is home to two significant churches designed by two of the Colony’s most famous nineteenth century architects, two historic cemeteries, a number of heritage listed buildings some of which house galleries, and award-winning cafes.
As you walk around town you might like to follow the Bodalla Town History Walking Guide.
Bodalla and the Morts
Bodalla and the Morts is a ‘warts and all’ account of Thomas Sutcliffe Mort and his family’s long association with Bodalla by local historian and rural journalist Laurelle Pacey. It tells of the fortunes and trials of the Bodalla Estate through many years, ending with the family’s sale of the Bodalla Company in 1987 to Panfida in its bid to control the Sydney milk market, and the subsequent break-up of the Estate in 1989.
The author has drawn on an extraordinary wealth of primary source material including Bodalla Company records, Mort family correspondence and diaries, over a thousand contemporary newspaper reports, and hundreds of early Mort family photographs.
“My aim has been to try to understand Thomas Mort, his fascination with and expectations of Bodalla, the people who played major parts in the operation of the Bodalla Estate over the years, and the family’s continuing involvement with Bodalla,” she said.
NERRIGUNDAH is just 18km from Bodalla (approx 25 minutes) however the journey takes you deep into the heartland of Eurobodalla.
There isn't a lot to see in Nerrigundah however with a good imagination the place comes alive. In the late nineteenth century, Nerrigundah was a gold mining town with a booming population of 11,000. It was one of three richest alluvial areas in NSW with 38 tons of gold produced. Early miners were panning 10 - 30 ounces gold each, daily. Now with a population of only 30, the settlement still has a very rich and exciting history.
The Gold Rush
Alluvial gold had been found in the narby steep narrow valley of Gulph Creek in 1861 sparking a rush with 200-300 men on site within weeks, many from Araluen. By 1866, the Gulph goldfields had passed their peak, yet Nerrigundah still had five hotels, several stores, a police barracks, and a town population of a few hundred with about 2,000, including many Chinese, in surrounding areas.
Nerrigundah was never anything but a small mining town. A steady trickle of gold from local diggings over a long period kept it alive into the 1930s. The Gulph is reputed to have produced some of the purest gold in the Colony.
An historic Nerrigundah Village Trail was created by locals Norman and Vin Dickson for visitors to the town and it is available for your interest HERE.
The Clarke Gang - Bushrangers.
On Sunday, April 8, 1866 the gang took over a hut beside Deep Creek, just south of Nerrigundah, and held up the passers by. Among them was Moruya storekeeper, John Emmott, who was riding home with his dealings. The gang shot his horse from under him, robbed him of the small fortune in his possession, shot him in the thigh and hit him on the head with a pistol. Not satisfied with their gains and perhaps fueled by the ease of their pickings five of the gang rode into Nerrigundah and held up the diggers at the hotel.
Two more entered Pollock's Store, now a museum with local information. The owner, one of the main gold purchasers, was forced to furnish the key to his safe. However, while the gang were herding more of victims into the hotel Mrs Pollock snatched the safe key from Thomas Clarke and threw it across the street, where one of her children clinched it between his toes and walked off with it. A candlelight search in the gloom by Clarke proved fruitless.
Trooper Miles O'Grady and another trooper entered the hotel just as two of the gang were threatening to kill local butcher, Robert Drew, who had thrown a roll of notes over their heads behind the bar. O'Grady fired at the two men, narrowly missing Patrick O'Connell but killing William Fletcher, a young jockey and son of a prosperous Batemans Bay farmer, who had only joined the gang the previous day. O'Grady was then shot in the return fire from William Clarke. The gang then fled town, picked up the other gang members from their base on Deep Creek and journeyed north.
Sergeant Hitch, the officer in charge of the Nerrigundah police returned from Moruya and organised a twelve-man posse. They ambushed the gang at Eucumbene River but no-one was captured, the only victim being a pack horse laden with goods from the store. They were officially declared outlaws the following month.
The historic Miles O'Grady Obelisk stands near the place he was shot. The monument is in honour of O'Grady who was buried in Moruya cemetery. Fletcher's grave, which was allegedly wrapped in bark, was laid and can still be found outside of the Nerrigundah cemetery, about 25 metres from the back right-hand corner. The cemetery itself is behind a grove of wattle trees a hundred metres beyond the monument and slightly to its right.
The Yuin people were the first inhabitants of the area and Narooma and its surrounds are rich in Aboriginal culture and history. As the traditional owners of the country around Wallaga Lake and Gulaga Mountain they have been able to secure ownership and management of Gulaga Mountain, named Mount Dromedary when Captain Cook saw its and thought it was camel-shaped. He was a fair way out and failed to see that Montague Island was actually an island 5km of the Narooma coast.
It wasn’t until the second fleet in 1790 sailed up the coast that they found the island and named it Montagu after George Montagu-Dunk, 2nd Earl of Halifax, known as the father of the colonies. Montague Island lighthouse was built in 1881.
Locally the story is that Noorooma comes from an Aboriginal word for ‘clear, blue water’. It was to become the name of the area after Francis Hunt sold his property known as "Wagonga" in 1839 to Thomas Forster who renamed it Noorooma. Yuin Elder Gubbo Ted Thomas advises however that Noorawa is the Yuin word for the bubble yellow seaweed that grows in the inlet. Read more of the history of the Inlet HERE
The Narooma area has always attracted the wayfarers, from prospectors to squatters and from farmers to fishers however in the 1930s it was fast becoming popular for its very stylish guesthouses and for being a tourist destination.
In the 1930s its guest houses and hotels were stylish and highly regarded.
Be sure to visit the Montague Lighthouse Museum at the Narooma Visitors centre. Narooma has two Heritage walks. The first is the Mill Bay Walkway that skirts the northern edge of Wagonga Inlet. The second walk is in the area referred to as Ringlands in the southern reaches of Wagonga Inlet. You can find more information on these walks HERE
Just to the north of Narooma is Dalmeny and we have assembled a page with great history and local knowledge for visitors who would like to learn more of that section of the coast and how it came to be named Dalmeny and how it came to be subdivided. Click HERE.
CENTRAL TILBA History
Gulaga (Mount Dromedary) has always been, for at least 20,000 years, a place of great spiritual importance for the Yuin Aboriginal people.
The name Mount Dromedary was applied when, in April, 1770 Captain James Cook sailed up the coast. He recorded in his journal: "At 6 o'clock we were abreast of a pretty high mountain laying near the shore which on account of its figure I named Mt Dromedary ... The shore under the foot of this Mountain forms a point which I have named Cape of Dromedary."
It wasn’t until the early 1820s that the area was first settled by Europeans. Things were quiet until in 1853 gold was discovered near in the area and on Gulaga. The Dromedary Gold Mining Company continued mining the mountain until the early 1900s.
The township of Central Tilba came to be, as it is today, in 1873 when Richard Bate established a post office and a few houses sprang up in the village. Added to this came the church in 1881 and by 1890 the town had two stores and a hotel.
With a focus on dairy it was inevitable that the A.B.C. Cheese Factory in Central Tilba would come into being 1891 with Samuel Bate as one of its founders. He followed this up with the opening of Bate's General Store at Central Tilba in 1894.
In 1895 Bate subdivided his land and sold off smaller lots connected by a street which led to the creation of Central Tilba. The Dromedary Hotel was one of the first buildings to be erected.