Charles DEE , 1860–1939 (aged 79 years)
HISTORY OF BULAHDELAH
Dungog Chronicle : Durham and Gloucester Advertiser (NSW : 1894 - 1954), Wednesday 15 November 1950, page 1
(Written for the Dungog "Chronicle" by R.P.)
A State President of the C.W.A. suggested all towns and villages should have their history recorded; so I have gathered the following information from many of those who came here, or were born here in the early days.
'Bulla-dela,' as the aboriginal pro-nounced it, later became Bullah-delah It is now known as Bulahdelah, which means "the meeting of the waters" — the Crawford River flows into the Myall on the south of the grants made to Joseph, Francis and William North, sons of a Major North in the years 1840 to 1841 — and Black Camp Creek flows in on the north.
The first land inhabited by white folk was on the grants of land as above, situated on the western side of the Myall River. A Horse Station was established worked by convict labour under an overseer. The white woman housekeeper, I would say, was the first white woman here. Rumour states she was murdered and buried near the junction of the Myall and Crawford Rivers.
The next grants were made in 1857 to Charles Dee, of Stroud, and to Lord Summerville on the eastern side of the Myall, south of Bulahdelah. Thomas Blanch, of Seaham and John Ireland, of Seaham, and Brassells, atferwards Paddy Flanagan's on the eastern side of the river opposite the North brother's grant. Also a few settled on the Upper Myall, Corrigans and Cassidy.
James Hooke, of Dungog, ran cattle on the Upper Myall. The country at that time was fairly clear. On one occasion during the mustering, an aboriginal named Charlie, whilst riding at full gallop, shot a beast dead to the surprise of the white men.
Later the Free Selections Act came in. The selector had 40 acres of land allotted to him with a long term of payment. To make their holdings bigger, the older members of the family selected in their names. On the Upper Myall and Markwell were such families as the Hickeys, Hogan, Newells, Thoms, Bourke, Dornev, Bens, Malconroy, Moir, Malone ,Whelan, Barry, Crouch, Ducks, Hacket, Masons, Callophan, Carter, Power, Gorman, Gilbert, Gooch, Hilton and Madden.
On the Crawford were the Bucks, Smiths, A. Newell, McLucas, McSilvray, Noonan, Keayes, O'Brien and J. O'Neill.
Wheat was grown at first and taken to Stroud to be ground into flour at Farley's Mill W. Malone and J. McGrath, of Boolambayte, worked the mill before settling on the Myall.
Coming to the district, the pioneers travelled in many different ways. Some came in small boats, rowing up from Port Stephens via the Myall River and sailing across the Lakes. Others came in drays from Booral; coming over the mountains they tied a small log on the back of the dray to act as a brake.
Not being able to cross the river at Bulahdelah, they crossed the Crawford River six miles out.
The road led up behind the North's grant and called 'The Old Inn Road' as it led to the 'Old Inn,' Rosenthal, a mile north of the North's and was conducted by Mr. and Mrs .Turner. A racecourse was built and also a grandstand, the idea was to make this spot the village, later Mr. Blanch built a ferry punt, worked by hand and rope. The Government also put a ferry with a man to work for carrying people across the river. The punts were worked by long poles in the river and sails on the lake, as they did not have engines in those days.
Eventually Bulahdelah became the big centre and Rosenthal petered out.
Mr. Blanch and his family farmed and built a nice size cottage called 'The Plough Inn' to cater for the settlers and those engaged in the timber trade.
The timber was cut in pits before the mills were built, As one would expect, Police protection was needed. Once a policeman named Cleary was sent up to investigate some thefts. Mrs. Blanch was, at the time of his arrival, trying to extract a cork from a bottle with a carving fork and he asked her, 'Where is the corkscrew?' She replied that it, too, was stolen.
The wooden courthouse and jail were on the site of the present brick building. The original courthouse having been eaten down with white ants. It was also smaller.
The first police magistrate was Mr. P. Snape, who also conducted church services. He was succeeded by Mr. Rowlands, who left here in 1883, the last resident P.M.
It was the custom on Queen Victoria's birthday, 24th May, to distribute blankets and flour to the local ana surrounding district blacks. The young folk had great fun watching the blacks eating the refreshments provided by the people and the men enjoyed watching the corroborees held at night on their special grounds.
Cutting shingles and the timber in pits continued in the district. The first mill was erected at Boolambayte, Myall Lakes by Mr. McRae in 1862. Two young Scotchmen, Alec Croll and John Wright, walked over the hills from Stroud to the river (Cedar Wharf) opposite Irelands and called for the boat. Mrs. Ireland, thinking they might be bushrangers, locked her children up in the cupboard before rowing the Scotchmen across. She was not to know they were to be the pioneers of ship building and timber mills on the coast ! The two young men were on their way to McRae's mill.
I would like to state here that Mrs. Ireland's daughter, Charlotte, was the first white child born on the Myall. Before her death in 1947, at the age of 89 years, she gave me much information of these early days.
Croll and Wright built the "Caledonia," the first coasting vessel for Mr. McRae, the latter also had two other vessels, "Star of Peace," and "Janet." His son cannot remember who built the last two. Later Mr. McRae went to Sydney for eight years and had his own wharves there. During his absence, Mr. Thos. James and Mr. W. Masters carried on. Mr. Hunter ran the shop at the mill. The Hon. Chapman conducted school. The first burial in the cemetery was that of Thomas Buckle, who was drowned. He was an uncle of the late Thomas Buckle, of Forster. Mr. Wright's wife was also buried here.
Mr. Croll married a Miss McKay who was keeping house for her brother, John, who afterwards had the hotel, "Cottage of Content," opposite the bridge.
Mr. Croll built a mill and lived at Bungwahl and Mr. Wright went to Tuncurry and established the ship building business which has been carried on to the present day.
The second mill was owned by James Dickson, four miles south of Bulahdelah, on the eastern side of the Myall River, "The Glen" was built about 1866. His coasting vessel, "Prince Alfred," had the name of being the fastest sailing vessel out of Sydney. For transporting the timbers from the mill he had a punt with a paddle wheel at the back. This punt also carried the timber to Hawke's Nest and shipped it on to ocean vessels.
The paddle-wheel punt was very useful for taking the employees and friends for picnics to Mungo Brush on the Myall Lakes, and to the lemon trees on North's grant.
Attached to the mill was a small shop to supply the needs of the wor-kers. There was also a school — the teacher being a Mr. Green and where he lived is to this day called "Green's Gully."
Families settled round here — the Butlers, Hagons, Richards, Mew, Ol-sen and Beechams .Those two mills were later followed by others in different parts of the district.
The first church to hold services In the district was the Church of England, in 1864, in the school residence where the present rectory now stands.
The teacher was J. L. Green, and his nephew, John Peter Green, was the first public school teacher in the late seventies. The school and residence were under one roof and was a wooden building. The stone building was built in 1882. The first C. of E. Church was built on the present site in 1872, and later the Roman Catholic Church, next to the school. Other church services were conducted in the Courthouse or in homes.
The "Pioneer Store," a general store, was owned by Chas. Pile, and is still carried on by his son. Other stores were owned by Sandy Donaldson, Stewart McKay and Hutchinson. The first bakery was built where Wade's store is now.
Patsy O'Neill started in the butchering line and two miles to the north his chopping block still stands in the paddock behind Avery's and Ireland's.
The first postmistress was Mrs. Chas. Pile. The mails were brought from Stroud (W. Mclntyre was P.M.) to Bulahdelah, and then sent to Forstor, known those days as Cape Hawke Mr. Breckenridge was P.M. here. The mails were carried on horseback by two lads, Charles and William Dee, aged 14 and 13 years. There were no roads, only bridle tracks over the mountains. The creeks were often swollen after heavy rain and made conditions hard for the two young boys. Despite these setbacks, they always kept to their timetable.
About 1881, a Post and Telegraph office was built, the postmaster being Mr. E. Blackwell. The mails were then taken to Booral in a two-horse coach, owned by Mr. J. Ridgeway; he also ran the first mail to Coolongolook on horseback.