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Settlement of the coastal areas of the north coast started with the first cedar cutters in the Clarence valley; they were Thomas Small and Henry Gillett who came from further south in 1837 on the ship 'Susan' and settled on Woodford Island. The Clarence was originally called The Big River, but was formally named the Clarence River in 1839 by the master of the first steamship to ascend the river, Captain Perry. 


In 1841, cedar cutters came overland from the Clarence valley to explore the areas around the Richmond River. They came for the vast amounts of cedar which were eagerly sought by builders in Sydney, Melbourne and overseas. The land between the Richmond and Tweed Rivers and inland for about 50 km  was known as The Big Scrub. It had a range of trees which grew in abundance such as red cedar and hoop pine, which pushed through the canopy to 100 feet [30 metres] or more. It was difficult however to cut access tracks as there was a dense under-story of vines, bushes and scrub which grew up to 60 feet [20 metres] along with thorny and poisonous vines,  vermin, snakes and mosquitoes. 

They found huge reserves of valuable cedar and in 1842 these same timber cutters went back overland to the Clarence Valley and returned on the ship 'Sally' with their wives and children. They established a small settlement above Shaws Bay which was originally called Deptford, but what the aboriginals called Bullinah or Bul-loona. It would appear that the settlers 

A number of early settlers also arrived in the 1840s. These include:

  • Thomas Ainsworth

  • John Skennar

  • Joe McGuire

  • Steve King

  • Tommy Chilcott

  • Sandy Golding

  • Tom Woods

  • Joe White

  • ? Jarvis


In 1847 others like the Ainsworth's, came from further afield . Below are the recollections of Mr James Ainsworth Snr (1842 - ?) who came to Ballina as a child aged 5 years with his family as told to Mr Thomas Russell in 1922 (Trove 8.5.1931

Mr Thomas Ainsworth (1812 - 1866), after whom Lake Ainsworth was named, was transported to Australia as a convict in 1831, then became a shipwright (Ramada). He made several voyages to the Richmond from Moruya, Southern NSW, in his vessel the 'Matilda Ann' bringing supplies for the squatters on the Upper Richmond River around Casino and taking tallow and timber as back loading. 

The Ainsworth family (wife Hellen and three children James, Jane and Susan) came to the area in 1847 in the 'Matilda Ann' which ran aground on North Creek. On arrival a man called Houlaghan (Houlaghans Creek between Booyong and Tevan) took off with a bag of sugar which was duly retrieved. At this time there was only one colony of cedar cutters on the river at East Ballina; i.e. the only settlement on the river until Casino. They lived in a rough shelter on land that he had title by preemptive-right through recognition as first settlers; land where the Shaws Bay Hotel now stands. The area was originally called New Chum Tom after Thomas Ainsworth then New Chum Bay but changed to Shaws Bay after James Shaw erected a house. Some of the neighbours at East Ballina included Joe McGuire and Steve King, Tommy Chilcott (Chilcotts Grass), Sandy Golding, Tom Woods, ? Jarvis and Joe White. 

Note that James Ainsworth said the name Bullenah was the aboriginal name for Ballina. He understood it related to fish and oysters, their abundance in the neighbourhood and the ease with which they could be obtained

Under a fig tree was situated the first saw pit where the first cedar on the Richmond River was cut (it had come from Prospect, North Creek). As timber cutting increased the number of saw pits increased and further saw pits were situated at the end of Martin and Norton Streets near North Creek. The second cedar waterway to open up was Emigrant creek (named probably after Captain Henry Rous's stallion 'Emigrant').

Thomas built the ‘Sailor’s Home’ Hotel at East Ballina in 1853. Thomas resided on North Creek before he drowned in the flood of 1864. He was only 53 years of age (Ramada).

James Ainsworth Snr was one of the first selectors of North Creek. He was a sugar cane farmer, a timber getter and a carpenter. James retired to Ballina and served as an Alderman on the Ballina Council (Ramada)

West Ballina and Ballina proper were secondary settlements. During this time in the 1840-1850 there was a blacksmiths shop owned by Bill Johnson near Fenwick's slipway (in front of the present Ramada Hotel). There were no police, magistrates, legal or lawful authority. 

After some time the settlement at East Ballina was relocated to Ballina proper. Further settlement grew such as Tintenbar, Teven and Duck Creek.



Residents of Tintenbar included Charles Jarrett, John Skennar, Charles McNeill, Dick Glascott, Jno. Holmes, — . Phillip, Jas. Ainsworth, Dick King, B. McCurdy, Steve King and Wm. Smith; and their wives and families. 


Teven is the aboriginal word for stinging tree. It was named this due to the numerous stinging trees that grew on its banks.The Teven camp included Joe Maguire, Billy Rose, the Johnstons, and the Mc-Canns.

Duck Creek or Uralba

Residents of Duck Creek were Billy Woollett, Manny Davis, P. Simpson (afterwards of Pimlico), Jno. Barnes and Frank Morrish, who was later one of the original selectors at Alstonville, at the top of the present cutting. 


A rival ship to Mr Thomas Ainsworth's was the 'Urara' skippered by Captain John Skennar (1819-1895); after whom Skennars Head and Skinner Street, Ballina are named. John Skennar was born in Stockholm, Sweden and died in Tintenbar. His obituary (Trove 10.07.1895) states:

"Mr. Skennar may well be considered one of the earliest pioneer settlers on the Lower Richmond, having started with Mr. C. Jarrett, J.P., in the timber trade and settled at Tintenbar 45 years ago [1850]. Skennar's Creek took its name from him. He joined Joe White in settling at White's Head and North Creek 28 years ago. He erected a sugar mill there 26 years ago [1869], and was the first to make sugar on North Creek. He also had a saw mill there and cut the timber for the first church in Ballina. He also grew and manufactured arrowroot in considerable quantities, but that did not prove lucrative. Though a man of great energy and enter-prise; sober and hardworking, and intelligence enough to conduct farming and mechanical works well, yet, unfortunately he fell into the hands of financiers, so that he lost what he had long looked on as his home, North Creek, and about 3 years ago he came to live beside his sons on Newrybar Ridge. .................. He was remarkably a strictly sober, honest, and straightforward man, and the number of old   neighbours who followed him to the grave was evidence of esteem. He has left the partner of all his joys and troubles to mourn after him, also three sons, married and living near Tintenbar and one living at Coolgardie; five daughters married and two unmarried, all in the district. He left 54 grandchildren and two g.g. children."

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