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HOME >> THINGS TO SEE & DO >> GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT LISMORE >> HISTORY OF LISMORE

Early European Settlers and Sawyers

History Early Settlers and Sawyers
It is appropriate to quote Rous's report on the geography of the lower reaches of the Richmond valley prior to settlement by white man, it read:

runs map"The general outline of the neighbouring country appeared to be flat open forest on the western bank and thick jungle to the eastward with fine timber, and as you ascend the river the tea tree mangrove and swamp oak give place to Moreton pines, cedar, yellow wood, palms and gum trees - the banks in general not exceeding 10 feet in height, rich alluvial mould - as far as the eye could reach to the W.S.E. not a hill could be discovered of any size, and on the whole it appeared remarkably flat country. Many natives were seen, and a few huts upwards of 30 feet in length and 6 feet in height."

By 1845 21 licenses had been granted for pastoral runs in the Richmond Valley. Whilst more research is required to prove the identity of the first squatters in the Richmond Valley, evidence suggests this may have been one Ward Stephens who applied for a license for Runnymede station in 1839.

Squatters were sheep or cattle graziers who until the 1850's occupied large areas of crown land. From 1837 the squatter was required to pay a license of ten pounds ($20) per annum to lease the land from the New South Wales Government, plus a fee for the number and type of stock grazed on the land. The fee was introduced to finance the cost of Border Police assigned to each Land Commissioner. The Border Police were employed to limit conflict between squatters and Aborigines, enforce the Crown Lands Act and to eliminate illegal runs. Land occupied by a squatter was referred to as a run or station. A number of stations were established in what is now within the Lismore Local Government Area.

Lismore Run.
Lismore run was located on the north arm of the Richmond River. (In 1976 the northern arm was re-named Wilson River). Lismore station covered an area of some 23,000 acres and was originally taken up by Captain Dumaresq in c. 1843. The run was originally stocked with sheep herded down from New England by one Scott of Glendon. Ward Stephens took up the run on their behalf in 1843, however the sub-tropical climate was totally unsuited to sheep grazing and consequently stock losses due to fluke, footrot, catarrh and other diseases lead to the abandonment of the run.

In January 1845, William and Jane Wilson took over the run and named it Lismore after a small island in Loch Linnhe in the Scottish highlands. The Wilsons were born near Aberdeen in Scotland and arrived in the NSW colony in May 1833. The Wilsons set sail from Sydney for the Richmond River arriving in Ballina in February 1844. Twelve months later the Wilsons had settled in Lismore and built a house at the far northern corner of the run to the east of the junction of Leycester and Wilson Creeks.

A second house was built in 1851 near the corner of present Ballina and Molesworth Streets and became known as 'Lismore House'. Unfortunately, both homesteads no longer exist.

A Government Gazette published in 1848 described Lismore as follows:

"Wilson: William. Name of Run: Lismore. Estimated Area: 36 square miles. Estimated Grazing Capabilities: 3000 cattle. Commencing at the junction of the north arm (Wilson River) with the main river (Richmond River), and running in a south-easterly direction, thereby in straight lines along the said River; for 10 miles, and bounded on the north-east by a range of mountains, bearing about east and west and north and south, on the north by large and impenetrable scrubs; and on the west by waters of the north arm aforesaid, as far as the falls on the same River…….."

In 1855 surveyor Frederick Peppercorne was instructed by the Surveyor General , Sir Thomas Mitchell, to determine a suitable site for a township at the confluence of the Wilson and Richmond Rivers. The site chosen by Peppercorne was Wilson's homestead paddock and this site was proclaimed the Town of Lismore in the Government Gazette on 1 May 1856. At the same time Wilson was able to secure freehold land at Monaltrie and Invercauld (part of the Lismore Run), by using his pre-emptive rights. Mrs. Francis Girard bought out the interests of Wilson's cattle station c.1863 including Lismore House, improvements on the station and the cattle stock.

Mrs. Girard took up occupation of the pastoral lease with her two sons Francis Napolean and Alfred Micheal Girard.

With the passing of the Robertson Land Acts in 1861, the Lismore Station with its fertile land and river frontage became a prime target for land hungry selectors. The land grab reduced the size of the Lismore Run by half and coupled with personal disaster and recurring devastating floods, the Girards were forced to abandon their pastoral operations c,1873.

Tunstall Run.
In 1843 Augustus Adolphus Leycester and his partner Robert Shaw took up the pastoral lease over their run which they called Tunstall. The two partners previously held a run on the Severn River, New England and arrived overland with their cattle stock via Woodenbong-Urbenville.

The Tunstall lease was described in the New South Wales Government Gazette as follows:

"…Estimated Area: 19,200 acres. Estimated Grazing Capabilities:1,200 cattle. Bounded on the north by a creek known by the name Duck Creek (now Leycester Creek), which divides it from the stations of Messers Fawcett and Lord; on the south by a pine range which divides it from Mr. Clark Irving's Station; on the east by a creek running into the north arm of the Richmond River (now Wilson River), dividing it from Mr. Ward Stephens Heifer Station known by the name of Virginia Water; on the east by the north arm dividing it from Mr. Wilson's station known by name Lismore; and on the west by a ridge or spur running from the pine range into the Duck Creek (now Back Creek) on Mr. Stephen's side of a large plain fronting Mr. Lord's station Ellerby."

In 1847 a protracted law suit commenced between Leycester and Shaw and their neighbour Ward Stephens of Runnymede over a land claim for a large plain between the two runs. The plain became known as Disputed Plain. In the same year Shaw left Tunstall forcing Leycester to buy out his share, and these costs coupled with the large debts associated with the legal action forced Leycester to finally sell his interests in Tunstall to Henry Garrard in 1849. Leycester remained on as manager of Tunstall until in 1850 he left Australia for the California gold fields.

Garrard used his pre-emptive rights to purchase some 320 acres of Tunstall which he named Twickenham. The property's homestead was built on the present sight of the Lismore railway station and directly opposite Lismore House on the western bank of the Wilson River.

Virginia Run.
The Virginia pastoral lease was taken up by Ward Stephens of Runnymede. The Government Gazette of 3 rd June 1848 described Virginia thus: "…. Estimated area:16,000 acres. Estimated Grazing Capabilities: 1,500 cattle. Bounded on the south by the Richmond River; on the east by the north arm of the Richmond; on the west by a pine scrub and range, being the boundary of Mr. Irving's station ; and on the north by a creek running at the back of a pine ridge".

The station later became known as Heifer Station and was used as a breeder run for Runnymede.

Ellerby Run.
The original pastoral lease known as Ellerby was taken out in 1842 by John Lord. The Government Gazette of that year described Ellerby as follows:

"Lord, John. Name of Run: Ellerby. Estimated Acres: 4,800 acres. Estimated Grazing Capabilities: 500 cattle, 7,000 sheep. Bounded on the east by Gale Creek (now Leycester Creek); on the west by a small creek (tributary. Of Back Creek) running into the main creek (now Back Creek); on the north side nearly opposite Stephen's second station (Heifer Station); on the north by a range of mountains on the south by the main creek."

Lord pastured sheep on the run, but as elsewhere in the Richmond Valley, the sub-tropical climate was totally unsuitable. The lease was subsequently taken over by Atkinson and Mackellar and became an outstation of Runnymede.

Blakebrook Run.
Irving Clark took out the lease on Blakebrook Run in 1848. The Government Gazette of that year described the run as :

"Irving, Clark. Name of Run: Blakebrooke (note earlier spelling). Estimated Area: 19,200 acres. Estimated Grazing Capabilities: 800 cattle. Bounded on the east by the north-west branch of the north arm of the Richmond River(now Wilson River); on the west by the N.W. branch (now Leycester Creek) of the same river; on the south by the main branch of the north arm( Wilson River); and on the north by a range of mountains (Night Cap Range) which divide the waters of the Richmond and Tweed Rivers."

In 1856 Mary Garrard acquired 201 acres of Blakebrook and with her husband Henry renamed it to Booerie, and commenced building on the property. John Goodfellow acquired land around the Rosehill and Nimbin areas and subsequently c.1858 sold these holdings to Edward Flood.

The Sawyers.
Unlike the first squatters on the Richmond valley, the early cedar cutters arrived by sea via the Richmond River. First sawyers arrived at the mouth of the Richmond River in December 1842, the first white men to cross the river bar since Captain Rous in 1828. The arrival of Steve King and others in the schooner "Sally" heralded the beginning of the cedar cutting industry on the Richmond River with the first cedar being cut at Coraki.

As soon as word reached other cedar cutters working on the Clarence River they travelled as fast as they could to cash in on the abundance and quality of the cedar on the Richmond . The cedar cutters required a license at a cost of $8 per year to fell trees on unallocated crown land. However, the license only gave them the right to cut and export timber and not to settle nor build permanent homes on the land. Consequently, the sawyers and their families were forced to live in temporary camps. Larger camps were established at Bexhill (formerly Bald Hill) and Gundurimba.

Initially the cedar was felled adjoining the River and as the river flooded the owner marked logs were floated down stream towards the first sawmill located at Shaw's Bay, Ballina. As the timber close to the river was exhausted, the sawyers were forced to move further up river towards Kyogle and deeper into more inaccessible country called the 'Big Scrub'. The clearing of timber in these areas assisted the opening up of the land for pastoralists and brought the introduction of bullock teams to transport the logs overland to the new and prospering saw mills located at Wyrallah, Coraki and Lismore.

In the second half of the nineteenth century the primary industries of the Richmond Valley and the Lismore region in particular continued to be cattle gazing and timber. These primary industries supported a growing economy and population and the development of secondary industries including ship building, transportation, saw milling, tallow manufacturing and other associated business.
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