EARLY DAYS ON THE RICHMOND
FROM AN 81 YEARS OLD NATIVE OF GUNDURIMBA.
Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser (NSW : 1886 - 1942), Friday 31 July 1936, page 2
One account of the first persons to settle on the Richmond River after the exploration by Henry Rous in 1828, is told by Mr John Cooper of Tomki, Casino, in a letter to the Richmond River Herald in July 1936. He was born 1855 at Gundurimba and his father was one of the first white men to arrive (Trove 31.07.1936). He says :
"In 1837, or early in 1838, the 'Northumberland' and 'Little 'Sally' crossed in over the bar at what, was then called Black Rock — now Ballina. These boats carried Jimmy Pearce, Jimmy Johnston, Jack Smith, Billy Woodward, Jim Shaw, and my father, George Cooper, together with their wives, families and equipment. Those were the first men to cut cedar on the Richmond, their first camp being at Camp Creek, near Wyrallah. ...................Perhaps a few remarks [on] the first trip from Black Rock (or Ballina) as told by my father may be of interest. After they had proceeded some distance up the river one boat took one channel while the other boat took another channel, and both grounded. As it was three weeks since they had left Sydney, and there was fresh water on this island, they all disembarked and, while the womenfolk got busy and washed the clothes, the men had a 'picnic' and included on their menu was one cask of Pimlico ale hence the name the island still bears. They named the site of the present village of Wardell, Blackwall, as the country around was, in appearance, very similar to that of Blackwall in England. Broadwater they also named, on account of the broad ; expense of water. Woodburn they named Rocky Mouth, on account of' the creek emptying into the river there having rocks at the mouth. Devil's Elbow, they called what is now Swan Bay. They proceeded past the Junction (Coraki) for about four miles up the South Arm, and, seeing a pelican sitting on a tree, named the spot Pelican Tree. Here they scouted around ; looking for cedar, but, not being at all satisfied with the outlook; returned to the Junction (Coraki) and proceeded up the North Arm. At some distance from the Junction they espied a fallen tree sticking out from the river bank, and, looking very much like a piece of artillery, they called the spot Cannon Point — a name that endured, for years, (and still does:— Ed.). They also named a four- mile straight stretch of river Longreach (but afterwards changed it to '' Murdering Reach,' as it was believed that one of the early cedar men was murdercd by his mate some where along this stretch of water when returning , from Ballina. However, the crime could never be sheeted home to the perpetrator). It seems almost unbelievable today, but on two occasions, between the Junction (Coraki) and Camp Creek (or Old Camp Creek, as they called it) sailors had to climb up in the rigging and cut away vines that were stretching right across the river, before the vessels could proceed'. Some time after the arrival of the above band of cutters on the river, there was a three years' drought, and they had to row in boats up past Coleman's Point in order, to obtain fresh water. It was on those excursions that they discovered Gundurimba, and, taking a fancy to the spot for a camp site, shifted thither."
DISTRICT PIONEER MR. GEORGE COOPER OF CHILCOTTS GRASS
The death of Mr. George Cooper, of Chilcott's Grass, on September 9, removed one of the Richmond's real pioneers. He was born in New Zealand in 1836. When only three days old he was stolen by the Maoris, who kept him for four days and then returned him to his parents, and told them to leave the island or they would all be killed. They then left on the first boat that called at New Zealand for Sydney. Soon afterwards they sailed from Sydney on the Little Sally, the boat which accompanied the Northumberland on her first cruise along this coast, and the crossed the bar at Ballina, afterwards coming to Wyrallah where they camped at Old Camp Creek, where the first cargo of cedar was cut on the Richmond. Mr Cooper was then only one year old, and he lived practically all his life around these districts, sharing the hardships of which the people of to-day know little.
He married Miss Mary Woods, who died over 40 years ago, leaving seven children, of whom six arc still living. The sons are : James (Kyogle), William (Nimbin), Henry (Lismore), Alfred (Gympie, Queensland), and Josiah (Chilcott's Grass). There was only one daughter (Mrs. Lofts, of Chilcott's Grass), with whom the old man spent his last days. There were also 17 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren. One brother (Matthew) is still living, and resides at Gympie with his nephew, Alfred and is still hale hearty at the age of 84. He can still re-late stories of the grand old days of the Richmond.