HOME OF THE LADY DENMAN - Local history isn't always about the big story - the everyday story of life in the early development of the region can be a fascinating, entertaining and educational journey.

27 March 2015

The Rise and Fall of South Huskisson

The story of South Huskisson, enterprise, profit and greed.
The Southern Tablelands and the Goulburn Plains was growing at a rapid rate,  farmers looked for a way to get their produce to the Sydney markets cheaper and easier than the long journey overland to Sydney they now faced.
A practical route was needed to Jervis Bay, the nearest potential port.

1839: Messrs. Murray and O’Connell looking to fill that want, discovered a satisfactory route, and formed a company with other interested parties with a capital of 5000 pounds for the purpose of constructing a road.

February 1841: Work begun after 70 men and implements were transported to Jervis Bay in the coasting vessel the Isabella.


“ The circumstances of a good dray road being completed between Braidwood and the sea cannot but increase highly the value of property in the neighbourhood,  as will afford and easy outlet to the Sydney Markets”

July 1841: The work was hard and dangerous, but  twenty-five miles of road was complete, the men were then at work on the hardest part of their task,  where rock-blasting and cutting were required.  This pass was completed towards the end of the same month.

October 1841: Accounts stated, that work on the road had progressed to such an extent that drays laden with wool, would soon be passing daily.

December 1841: Work on the “Wool Road” as it became known and still carries today, was all but complete and bullock drays started to use the road.

No township existed when the announcement was made of the proposed road between Nerriga and Jervis bay, it became necessary to take steps to lay one out.  Accordingly the Surveyor-General was requested to give necessary instructions for laying out a township at Jervis Bay.

On examination of the land acting Surveyor-General Captain Perry pointed to the south side of Mooney Mooney Creek, which he considered to be without comparison the most favourable for the laying out of streets and the construction of wharves.

The location selected was in private ownership,  so the land between Mooney Mooney Creek and Jervis Bay River (Currambene Creek) which was still in Government reserve was selected for a new town, the site of the present day Huskisson.  The announcement of the road led other land holders to quickly submit town plans,  eager to cash in on the expected growth.

image The first township subdivision to be advertised in the Sydney Newspapers was the subdivision of E. Deas Thomson’s estate, and was named “South Huskisson’'. The very place Perry originally selected for a town.

June 1841: Land was advertised in the Sydney Herald, The first sale was successful,  one hundred allotments totaling the sum of 3519 pounds.


South Huskisson’s first store.
July 1841:
A Mr. Campbell opened a store, which was doubtless the first of it’s kind in the bay.
October 1941: Excitement grew for the towns prospects as newspaper reports were released.


November 1841. Sydney Herald:
“The practicability of rapid communication between South Huskisson and Sydney had been tested several times and the safety of the harbour established beyond doubt, the steamer Tamar having come to anchor in the middle of the night”.
”A sloop of 300 to 400 tons was expected to proceed to the port in the following February to take wool direct for London,  a cargo of 700 to 1000 bales having been guaranteed.


The township started to grow.
An inn, the Braidwood Inn,  had been licensed and opened some months earlier.  A wool store owned by Mr. Campbell was in course of construction,  Several Mechanics of the most useful kind had already located themselves upon the allotments, as well as a baker and over time several more licensed Hotels.

March 1841: Sydney Monitor.
It is certain the success of South Huskisson,  inasmuch that it is likely to become one of the most important seaport towns in the colony.

March 1842: Sydney Herald.
”I am happy to inform you that this township is at last emerging from obscurity”

December 1842: The wharf at South Huskisson is now about being completed, and every facility is offered for storing and shipping wool from that port.

December 1842: His Excellency the Governor announced that South Huskisson was permitted to sell wine and fermented liquors (but not spirits) at places so declared, in quantities not less than two gallons.


One can imagine the noise from the many bullock drays, the bullock bell, the rattle of the billy hanging from the dray, teams backed up waiting to load their wool onto waiting ships, Hotels bustling with work hardened, thirsty bullockies, ship captains and their salty crews, the truth stretched yarns, it must have been an amazing time.


January 1843: The paddle steamer the Sophia Jane was doing monthly trips from Sydney to South Huskisson, the road to Nerriga was considerably improved and several dray loads of wool weighing 3600lbs. each had been bought down from the present years crop. The dray men all spoke favourably of the road and the facilities it offered to the settlers for moving goods back and fourth between the Bay and Sydney.
painting-be-Ian-Henson Ian Henson's painting of the Sophia Jane loading Wool at the wharf near South Huskisson, this painting can be seen at the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum.

The new township faced mounting opposition.
Sydney’s well known business men and merchants afraid of loosing their large profits if South Huskisson became an established port, begun circulating rumours about the road, the wharf and the townships ability to meet the need.  Hell bent on keeping the commerce in Sydney and boost their profits, they lobbied the government to extend the train line from Sydney to Goulburn.

The bubble had burst – The extension of the railway was the final straw:
Despite many years of commerce, the thriving town of South Huskisson was doomed by the  Sydney businessmen achieving their aims,  the rail line was extended from Sydney to Goulburn, it was no longer necessary for wool producers and farmers to ship their produce to the coast, it  bought a quick end to the township of South Huskisson.
  1848: J.P. Townsend, in his Rambles and Observations in New South Wales. makes some comments.
” At Jervis Bay which is not far from the Shoalhaven are five towns,  but amongst them all,  are but two inhabited houses. The temptation here was the fine bay,  and it was suppose that it would be the outlet of the countries interior.  The architects of these aerial towns were often greedy land sharks who richly deserved the pillory,  but the originators of others were sometimes as much deceived as those they gulled.
Wool stuck on the road
There’s a certain romance associated with large teams of bullocks numbering between 12 and 20 plodding along slowly carrying their burden towards the bay, bullockies slowly working their teams, the sound of the whip cracking, sleeping under the stars and boiling their billy’s,  this romantic view was sometimes far from the truth,  especially  in the later part of the 19th century as rail replaced steamers.,  the road was starting to disintegrate, wet weather created many problems.
The Goulburn Herald and Chronicle January 1869.
  “Teams laden with wool became stuck on the mountain, The carriers became forced to carry provender for their horses, there being no sign of vegetation.  At some places on the road poor miserable bullocks are left unable to proceed any further,  and there the old workers stand and will not get out of the way,  ultimately perishing of starvation,  no grass or water within their reach”.
By the  late 19th century there was nothing left but empty, broken, overgrown buildings, the wharf so carefully made was just a pile of tumbled stones. The wool road had fallen into disrepair and was almost impassable.

A few years later the great hope of Jervis Bay, South Huskisson, had reverted back to the wild bush it had been carved from, only a few soil mounds and one large Norfolk Pine tree gave any indication that there had once been something there.

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