Early European Settlement in the Eurobodalla Region

The late 1820s saw the expansion of European settlement into areas to the north and south of the Eurobodalla region; by the 1830s Europeans had moved into the Eurobodalla region itself. In 1829 the settled area of the colony of New South Wales was divided into nineteen counties. Settlement, including pastoral occupation, was officially forbidden in the area outside the nineteen counties.

The boundary of these counties was known as the ‘Limits of Location’, the southern boundary being the Moruya River.30 The Eurobodalla area north of the Moruya River lay within the County of St. Vincent. The area to the south of the Moruya River lay ‘outside the boundaries’ of official settlement. However, the differing land laws for the two sections of Eurobodalla had little impact on the actual process of European settlement in the region.

Gaining control of the process of European settlement beyond the ‘Limits of Location’ was a concern of successive governors of New South Wales. In 1836 Governor Bourke first formalised these attempts in legislation known as the ‘squatting act’. The Act provided for the creation of ‘Squatting Districts’ in the area beyond the limits of settlement and for a Commissioner for Crown Lands to be appointed to oversee each of these districts. Amongst the first Squatting Districts formed was the Maneroo Squatting District, this district covered the area from south of the Moruya River to south of Eden township and west of the Dividing Range. John Lambie, the first Crown Lands Commissioner for the District, took up his position in1839. One of the duties of the Crown Lands Commissioners was the provision of an annual report on the status of the Aboriginal people within their region. These reports are an important source of information on Aboriginal life in the 1840s and ‘50s. Although the boundary of the area Lambie covered formally lay at the Moruya River it is evident in his reports and associated census details that he was dealing with Aboriginal people throughout the Eurobodalla area.

The late 1820s saw European settlement begin to be established in the area to the north and south of the Eurobodalla region, in the Bega Valley and Twofold Bay in the south and the Illawarra and Shoalhaven to the north. Europeans also began to settle in the Monaro tablelands in this period, the town of Braidwood developing as a regional centre with 85 non-Indigenous people living there by 1828.

In 1828 Surveyor Florence surveyed the coastal area from Sydney to Moruya; he reported a deserted hut and stockyards on Runnyford Creek near Bateman’s Bay. Clearly there had already been some pastoral activity in the region, however, it was scattered and very limited in nature. In the late 1820s a small number of pastoralists and settlers began to move into the area. Throughout the 1830s the extent of European settlement steadily grew. Much of the movement of people and stock into the area came down from the tablelands via Braidwood and Araluen while others came by sea.36 Throughout the nineteenth and well into the twentieth century the sea was the focus of south coast settlement with settlers relying on it for the majority of their transport needs.

By 1830 there were a number of major landholders in the district, including William Morris at Murramarang, Thompson at Bateman’s Bay, Captain Raine at Mt. Dromedary and Francis Flanagan and John Hawdon at Moruya.37 In 1833 a drought led the settlers in the Braidwood area to look for further pastures. In the following year John Jauncey, on behalf of the Curlewis brothers of Braidwood, selected the area around Tilba Tilba, from Corunna Lake south to Wallaga Lake and to Mt Dromedary in the west. Two Aboriginal brothers Tom and Dick Toole had led him there. Jauncey named the property ‘Tolbedilbo’, which is said by some to be a local word for windy. The name Tilba Tilba appears to have derived from ‘Tolbedilbo’.

The first European settler in the Wagonga Inlet area was Francis Hunt, he took up land in 1839 on the south of the inlet. Thomas Forster acquired the land in 1849 and it became known as ‘Noorooma’. Forster added land throughout the 1850s and at one stage was said to have held land from the inlet down to Wallaga Lake. The Bodalla area was taken up by John Hawdon, who already held land in the Moruya area, in the mid 1830s as he was expanding his land holdings throughout the district. In an article based on a series of letters written by John Hawdon to his family in England in the late 1820s and early 1830s there are references to the Aboriginal people of the area who led Hawdon to the rich grasslands of Bodalla:

When the family moved to his grant at Moruya he found the South Coast blacks very friendly. They took the family (the only white family there at the time), as quite good friends from the first, and never altered. The Moruya blacks always called Mrs. Hawdon “My dear.” Her husband called her that, so it was evidently her name! It was through their friendship that Mr. Hawdon first took up Bodalla (or Botally as the blacks called it). They told him they knew where there was good grass and water, and took him to see it. He was so impressed with its richness that he took up several thousand acres there. It afterwards passed into other hands.

A great battle was once fought in the Kiora barnyard between the Moruya and the Braidwood blacks. It raged loud and long, much to the terror of the household, but the Braidwood tribe at last retired, evidently beaten, for they left two wounded on the field!

Throughout the 1830s and ‘40s settlement in the region slowly increased with both the granting of more areas of land for the establishment of properties and the movement into the area of labourers and some landless tenant farmers who leased small areas of already existing properties. European settlement in these early decades was patchy in nature as a result of the geography of the area with its rugged mountainous country separating the river valleys.

Taken from Eurobodalla Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Study, South Coast New South Wales. View the full study

Excerpt from Eurobodalla Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Study, South Coast New South Wales, 2005. Story contributed by Martin Ind from Moruya High School.