The Murray Family – Chapter Six – Pioneering in the Shoalhaven

 Pioneering in the Shoalhaven         ULLADULLA 1850s.


According to the 1888 publication, Men of Mark, James Murray stated that he ‘worked for his father until 1847, then went to Avondale Ulladulla  and farmed there until 1857’.   What influenced him to leave the Illawarra and go to Ulladulla?  Other pioneering accounts of that time and place, as well as local history publications describing conditions in the Illawarra, are used to fill in those years to 1857.   It becomes possible, then, to build up some sort of a scenario that may have led James to induce his father and the rest of his family to move to the lush pastures and forests of the Ulladulla area.


Osborne’s Butter Track

          In his book, History of Shoalhaven, William A. Bayley traces packhorse and bridle tracks that developed along the earliest routes in the Kangaroo Valley as well as from the Marshall Mount property of Henry Osborne.  The best known of these was marked on various New South Wales Lands Department plans as ‘Osborne’s Butter Track’.  This route was used to drive young cattle to the Valley.  It was also used to send butter back, in kegs balanced on packhorses at the rate of four kegs a week, along the coast tracks developed for communication between centres settled by clearing leases, and later by selectors.  Transport of produce was directed to ports from which shipping developed to Sydney. [1] Farther south, at the growing dairy centre of Ulladulla, the tracks converged on Ulladulla harbour.  


Boat Harbour and The Settlement

          At Ulladulla, cedar drew the early settlers, the first of whom was the Rev Thomas Kendall.  He settled just north of the present township in 1828.  Gradually, the rich farming land seven kilometres north of the harbour was settled and the local farmers called this ‘the settlement’.  The harbour from which their produce was shipped to Sydney was known simply as the ‘boat harbour’.  However, the whole area was officially known as ‘Ulladulla in the County of St. Vincent’.   

The  ‘settlement’ was difficult to approach by land.  There was every possible obstacle to prevent settlers from reaching it – rivers, lakes, swamps, creeks and gorges.  Transportation was by horse and cart, packhorse; bullock-teams for the heavy materials, and saddle horses.[2]   James Murray may have travelled over some or all of these tracks during the course of working on the Osbornes’ properties in the Illawarra.

          It is not possible to pinpoint exactly when Charles Murray Senior and the other members of the family joined James in the Ulladulla area but they may have gradually made the move sometime between 1847 and 1849.


Mary marries

          On 12th February 1847, Charles & Susan’s eldest daughter Mary married John McCarthy in Sydney.  Most likely, they become acquainted during the family’s time living and working at Garden Hill, Wollongong.  After they married, John and Mary McCarthy lived for a time in Wollongong where their first child was born. They were not part of the move down to the Ulladulla area when the rest of the Murray family went there from Garden Hill, but remained behind in Wollongong, eventually moving to live in the Nowra area. 

 As pioneers for the second time around, there would be a lot of hard work ahead for Charles and the rest of the family, but the greatest boon of all awaited them – the opportunity to own land and work for themselves.  In a Shoalhaven directory of 1849, there is an entry, ‘Charles Murray Snr – Conjola – Farmer’.[3]  They were on their way.   It was in the early 1850s that Charles and his eldest son James started acquiring parcels of land in the Armstrong’s Forest area, where they would eventually set up dairying and other farming operations. Timber (especially cedar), fruit, vegetables, wheat, cheese and butter were the main sources of income for the pioneers.


Ellinor marries

On a nearby farm, Eagle View, there lived a bachelor farmer, Andrew McLean, listed as ‘landowner’ in an 1850 directory.  After the Murrays became neighbouring farmers, it seems Andrew wasted no time but proceeded to court and marry Charles and Susan’s second daughter, Elinor, in that same year. 


Land Sales

The free granting of land had been abolished in 1830, and land was now sold at a flat rate in regular public sales.  Few were deterred and the speculative land fever generated by the boom in squatting soon began to affect the Ulladulla area.  Charles Murray was there at the right time.  By June 1851, there is documented evidence that Charles Murray and, no doubt, the remaining family members were living on a farm in the area, and using it as their address.  (Maybe they were squatting for a time on land selected to buy when the time was right).

 At a sale of land, held at Broulee on 25th June 1851, fifty acres were purchased by  ‘Charles Murray of Darling Forest’.[4]  This land was in the County of St. Vincent near Ulladulla (Lot 24) and handwritten on top of the deed were the words, ‘Deed prepared on farm of Charles Murray’.  The purchased land was described as follows:

Fifty acres. County of St. Vincent Parish unnamed, near Ulladulla.  Commencing on the North bank of a Creek forming the Northern boundary of Kendall’s 1280 Acres at the West side of a measured portion of 105 Acres and … on the East by that land; and the Northerly continuation of the West boundary thereof, being a line bearing North 33 chains; on the North by a line bearing West 15 chains; on the West by a line bearing South 35 chains to the Creek aforesaid; and towards the South by that Creek. Easterly to the 105 acres aforesaid.

Thomas Surfleet Kendall, a son of Shoalhaven pioneer Rev Thomas Kendall, owned a farm in the area at that time called Darling Forest.   As this land was originally promised to him by a previous Governor, Sir Ralph Darling, Kendall called it Darling Forest a compliment to His Excellency.  Sir George Gipps later officially made the grant on 30 June 1840.  Thomas Kendall and his family were living at Darling Forest from 1838 until 1844, when they went to Kiama.[5] 

          It is suggested, as an alternative to the squatting theory, that Charles and his sons were managing this farm Darling Forest for the Kendalls prior to purchasing their adjacent lot.  On 5th January 1852, the Crown Grant was made to Charles Murray of this first 50 acres (lot 24).  This has since been identified as the landholding subsequently called, for many years, Avondale, Ulladulla. 

It was thought the chosen name Avondale may have had an Irish connection, but more likely the association was with the Osbornes.  One of Henry Osborne’s landholdings at Dapto in the Illawarra was also called Avondale and Fermanagh emigrant William Blow who had come on the Susan with Charles Murray had moved from Garden Hill to this Dapto estate in the 1850s.[6]   Avondale is presently the name of a suburb of Dapto.[7] 

           Adding further to his land holdings, ‘Charles Murray of Ulladulla’ attended a Sale of Lands held this time at Wollongong on 3rd September 1851.  There, he purchased 50 acres in the County of St. Vincent near Conjola Creek at the cost of 50 pounds.  This land is described thus:

Fifty acres.  Parish unnamed near the head of Conjola Creek.  Commencing at a point on that Creek, bearing North 41 degrees West and distant 98 chains from a marked Oak tree at the junction of the Creek forming the Southern boundary of the Village Reserve, with Conjola Creek and Bounded on the South by a line bearing West 22 chains 50 links; on the West by a line bearing North 20 chains to Conjola Creek; and towards the North and East by that Creek Easterly and Southerly to the point of commencement.  Upset price 1 pounds per acre.


Six months later, on 1st March 1852, the Crown Grant of this land was made to Charles Murray of Ulladulla (Lot 14).  This Conjola lot is possibly the land that eventually went to his eldest son, James.

          Only two weeks later, at a sale of land held this time at Broulee on 19th March 1852, ‘Charles Murray of Ulladulla’ further purchased 105 acres at the cost of one hundred and five pounds in the County of St. Vincent at Big swamp near Ulladulla described thus:

Parish unnamed at the Big Swamp near Ulladulla commencing at the North East corner of a measured Portion of One hundred Acres and Bounded on the South by that Land bearing West thirty chains to Kendall’s one thousand two hundred and eighty Acres on the West by part of the East boundary of Kendall’s Land and a continuation thereof being a line bearing North thirty five chains on the North by a line bearing East thirty chains and on the East by a line bearing South thirty five chains to the commencing point aforesaid.  Being the Land put up to Sale as Lot 11 in pursuance of the Proclamation of 14th February 1857 and subsequently selected by the said Charles Murray under the eleventh paragraph of the Regulations of 1st March 1843.

On 18th January 1853 the Crown Grant of this 105 acres (Lot 11) was made to ‘Charles Murray of Ulladulla’.


Son Phillip Murray marries

          On 28th November 1853, Charles & Susan Murray’s second son, Philip, married Rosina Thomas at Milton.  Charles obviously decided now to convey some of the land to his newly married son, Philip.  At the same time he proceeded to convey land to James, his eldest son, who was also soon to marry.  


On 20 December 1854, he conveyed Lot 14 (50 acres at Conjola adjoining the village reserve) to James; and Lot 11 (105 acres adjoining Kendalls at Big Swamp) to Philip.

20/12/1854 Indenture between Charles Murray of Ulladulla … Settler and Susan his wife of the one part and James Murray of Ulladulla aforesaid settler of the other part … absolute sale…120 pounds – 50 acres near the head of Conjola Creek – junction of creek…marked Oak Tree at the junction of the creek forming the southern boundary of the village reserve with Conjola Creek – signed by C. Murray and the mark of Susan Murray (Lot 14?)

20/12/1854. Conveyance between Charles Murray of Ulladulla … and Susan … has contracted with the said Phillip Murray … absolute sale to him …110 pounds … paid by the said Phillip Murray …105 acres …unnamed at the Big Swamp near Ulladulla – the Kendalls 1,280 acres and on the west by part of the east boundary of Kendall’s land…’  (Lot 11?)]


Pioneer dairyfarmers

        It was dairying that became the principal outlet of agriculture very early in the district’s history.[8]  As family stories relate that the Murrays were dairy farmers in the early days, it likely that by this time – in the mid-1850s – they were running Avondale as a dairy farm.  However, in those days, every farm family had cows, milked by hand, by father, mother, children or bachelor uncles.  This was usually done in slab bails with dirt floors, bark or shingle roofs, wide verandahs and cobblestone yards.[9]


Sponsoring family members

Many hands were needed to clear the land, plant and harvest crops, milk the cows and all the other jobs to be done by hand in those pioneering times.   It was hard work but at least this was their own land.  According to Australian historian, Patrick O’Farrell, the ‘overwhelming weight of testimony sent back to Ireland’ showed the Irish emigrants were thankful for the decision they had made, and were happy to assist relatives left behind, sending them money or sponsoring their passage to New South Wales.  This would be especially so when news of the potato famine that struck Ireland in 1845 reached Ulladulla.

To this end, Charles Murray Senior sought to bring out some family members from Ireland.   He may have received a letter from Ireland that his sister and husband in Fermanagh had passed away leaving their family of orphans.  Not only could members of this family help on the Murray landholdings, emigrating would give them an opportunity to make a better life for themselves.

          In the Shoalhaven, as in other pockets of New South Wales, Irish settlers tended to set up chain migration patterns, which rapidly increased the size of the family groups. And so it was that, on 5th October 1854, Charles Murray sponsored, as emigrants, five members of the related Magee/McGee family from Templecairn, Fermanagh.  As their sponsor, he paid £22.10s towards the cost of their passages. 


The McGee family

The five young McGees arrived in Sydney per Hilton on 2nd October 1855.  It stated on their ‘Certificate of Entitlement’ that they had relations in the Colony – ‘an uncle – Charles Murray living at Ulladulla’, and that their parents were both dead.  Their mother’s name was given as Dorinda Murray – evidently a sister of Charles Murray Senior.  The ages of the Magees in 1854 were stated as – James (25), Francis (22), Thomas (17), Charles (14) and Mary (12).  They eventually joined their pioneering uncle and cousins at Armstrong’s Forest.  [See  McGee family tree]


Constable Brown’s Diary[10]

          During the 1850’s, a diary was kept by Bernard Brown who was the local police constable between 1849 and 1862  Constable Brown roamed the Ulladulla district by horseback serving out summonses and performing other police duties in the area.[11]  His comments on local people contain a wealth of information for family historians.  His entries concerning some members of the Murray family, living at Yatte Yattah (or Armstrong’s Forest) and Conjola at the time, make interesting reading, describing events in their day-to-day lives.

 It seems likely, from his notes, that travellers were wont to use the Murray Senior homestead as a lodging place or guesthouse.  Brown’s diary entries often contained comments to the effect that he and others slept there on their journeys around the district.  Also, Charles Murray Junior, in a legal document some years later, stated that at one time he was owed money by ‘lodgers’. 

            The following entries are selections from Bernard Brown’s diary written during the year 1855, which contain references to the Murrays and related families.

  • January 2: Made for Mr. Murray’s place in the evening and slept there.  Mrs  Jones came there on her way home and slept there.
  • April 7th: Slept at Mr. Murray’s this night.  A lot of Broulee people arrived  shortly after returning from the races.  Young Robert McCauley nearly got drowned in attempting to cross some river by the Pylon (?) house.
  • April 8th: Sunday, left Mr. Murray’s this morning for Mr. Warden’s
  • 27th May: Spent the afternoon with Mr. and Mrs. P. Murray [Phillip & Rosina?]  Mr. and Mrs. McLean [Andrew & Ellen ?] …
  • 2nd June: Mr. Murray had a large sale of cattle which sold very well, but the  horses there was no sale for. 


Son James Murray marries

On 12th June 1855, Charles and Susan Murray’s eldest son, James, married Annie McCawley of Moville, Donegal, Ireland, at Wollongong.  Constable Brown mentions the bride and family festivities in his diary notes.

  • 16th June: Mr. and Mrs. McLean called here, came from Wandandyan this morning …Went down as far as Adam’s Wharf this afternoon to see if the  Steamer is in.
  • 23rd June: Saw James Murray at Thomas’s with his wife.  He fixed to dine with us and go on as far as Wandandian tomorrow, so as to reach Ulladulla on  Monday.
  • 25th June: Got back to Mr. Murray about 6 o’clock this evening.  The bride and folks arrived about 10 tonight unexpectedly.
  • 29th August: Got to Mr. Murray’s about 5 o’clock, spent another merry and pleasant night as they had a tolerable party there.
  • 30th August: Started from Ulladulla about 9 o’clock.  Mr. and Mrs. Davis, Mrs. McCan [McLean?] and Mr. C. Murray and self accompanied to the station by Mrs. J. Murray, Miss Murray and Mr.Tonay (?).Arrived home about 8 o’clock.
  • 12 October: Went up to Hyam’s this afternoon and on the Bank of the River met Old Murray and old Dawson.The latter returned and slept here.


Son Charles Murray Junior marries

          When his youngest son married, Charles Senior proceeded to convey land to him, as he had done with his two older sons.  On 28th February 1856, Charles Junior married Elizabeth Clare Conyngham at Sydney.  A few months after the marriage, on 27th May 1856, Charles Senior conveyed to his third son two lots (80 and 38 acres) of land.   This land, originally known as the Duck Hole, was later named by Charles Murray Jr as Avondale .  

  • 27/5/1856 Conveyance (Book 45 No. 610) Charles Murray Senior to Charles Murray Junior of a parcel of land (80 ac.) ‘… commonly called or known by the name of the Duck Hole…bounded on the east, south and partly on the north side by Crowra [sic] Creek and on the east by land in the occupation of Phillip Murray…’ , and another parcel of 38 acres or thereabout,’… lately purchased from the Crown by the said Charles Murray Senior.[12] [See Appendix F for full text.]


      The numerous family weddings would have afforded happy celebrations for the pioneers and in October of that year, 1856, the first concert in the district was held in a barn at nearby Croobyar, decorated for the occasion and attended by 150 people. It is easy to imagine that among the concert-goers were Murray family members and their neighbours. From Bernard Brown’s diary comments regarding festive evenings at the Murray farms, it is highly likely that one or more members of the family possessed the necessary musical talents to take a turn to perform.

Music and singing around the piano were well known diversions of the early Irish pioneers. A piano or ‘fiddle’ was a prized and well-used possession in those days, as was a repertoire of items to contribute to musical evenings in their homes. Many newspaper cuttings and concert programs exist to attest to the musical and singing talents of Charles and Susan Murray’s grandchildren. It is likely that these talents were nurtured as they were growing up at Armstrong’s Forest and Conjola.    


          Picnics were popular.  A photograph from the James Murray’s Conjola family album shows a group of young people, somewhat overdressed by today’s standards, enjoying an elegant picnic at the Yatte Yattah waterfall.

Another diversion mentioned by a visitor to the area in the 1850s was the sport of ‘hunting’.  Hermann Lau, a visitor from Germany during 1854-1859, wrote a book published in Hamburg in 1860 about his four years in New South Wales, where he spent part of the time on the south coast.  Lau’s journey along the coast included Ulladulla and stories of the local aborigines and their customs.  He said,

‘I went to visit the Murray Family near Ulladulla – they owned several properties, where I joined the men for several days working on the land.’ 

A digest of Lau’s book published in English in 1991, includes, after substantial commentary on the local aborigines, the following

Lau often went hunting with members of the Murray family, who lived on several farms to the north of Ulladulla.  He was with the Murrays when he found and killed a carpet snake.[13]

Herman Lau may have been a lodger for a while at Avondale during his visit to the area. No doubt, for the Murray men, whatever they were in the habit of hunting, rifle shooting was a much needed skill in those days and would lead to them becoming useful members of the Ulladulla Rifles some years later.


The land sales continue

          Still in the year 1856, Charles Murray Senior was busy added to his growing land holdings by purchasing four more lots.     

(1 )    3/11/1856 Crown Grant to Charles Murray of 40 acres (following sale as Lot 42 in pursuance of Proclamation dated 23/2/1856).  Land described thus:… at Gooloo – commencing on the Gooloo Creek at a point bearing East seventy eight degrees thirty … south and distant seventy one chains and  thirty links from the South East corner of C Murray’s fifty acres and bounded on the West by a line bearing South Eleven chains, on the South by a line bearing East Twenty seven chains on the East by a line bearing North twenty chains to the Conjola Lagoon and on the North by the Lagoon at the Gooloo Creek upwards to the commencing point. Being the land sold as Lot 4.

(2) 3/11/1856 Crown Grant to Charles Murray of 40 acres (following sale as Lot 43 in  pursuance of Proclamation dated 23/2/1856) – Land ‘… at Bunnair … being the Land sold as Lot 43 …’; and

                    3/11/1856 Crown Grants to Charles Murray of 38 ac 1 rd and 30 ac 1 rd following sale as lots 45 and 44 respectively, in pursuance of Proclamations dated 23/2/1856              

(3)  Lot 44 described thus:Thirty acres one rood … near Currowar Creek … distant Forty one chains and thirty links from the North West corner of C Murray’s one hundred and five Acres … being the Land sold as Lot 44.

(4)  Lot 45 described thus:Thirty eight Acres and one rood … on Currowar Creek – Commencing on the Currowar Creek at the South West corner of C Murray’s fifty acres… and thence by that Creek downwards to the South West corner of C Murray’s Fifty Acres aforesaid. Being the Land sold as Lot 45..


Growth of The Settlement

          By this time, 1856, the settlement around Armstrong’s Forest and the port of Ulladulla had a total population of four hundred.  There were stores and churches, and a public house, but no magistrate, or constable, or school, and the nearest doctor was fifty miles away.[14]  There were still no bridges, or formed roads north to Shoalhaven, or south to Broulee.  The journey from the harbour to the settlement was via Croobyar Road.  Farm produce was still being trundled along the miles of primitive tracks by packhorse, horse and cart, bullock dray and even wheelbarrow to the harbour where rowboats ferried them to waiting ships and steamers.

          Charles Murray the Elder was also assisting his extended family in their various business and farming enterprises.  Charles and his son, Phillip, helped Mary’s husband, John McCarthy, obtain a liquor licence on 21sst April 1857 for the Steam Packet Inn at Greenhills, Shoalhaven.[15] This included a reference attesting to John McCarthy’s ‘good fame and reputation by ‘Charles Murray Senior and Philip Murray of Ulladulla’ – as well as ‘a recognizance in the sum of fifty pounds each.’  So Mary McCarthy’s father, Charles Murray and her brother, Phillip, not only became McCarthy’s guarantors, but helped financially as well.  The public house venture was a mixed blessing as will be later shown.

       The orphaned McGees were also becoming part of the extended family.  Less than a month later, on 19th May 1857, 49 acres of land was let on a clearing lease agreement between Charles Murray and two of the McGee nephews he had sponsored as emigrants two years earlier –

 [land] … situated in Ulladulla bounded on the west by Philip Murray’s 105 acres of land.  To the said Thomas and Francis Magee for the term or time of 10 years from the above date to fell and burn off in a clean and workmanlike manner the said 49 acres and by themselves to fence all around the whole 49 acres within 7 years from this date with a good substantial hardwood three rail fence and they are not to sublet the said land or any part thereof without the written consent of the said Charles Murray…

Maybe Charles Murray used his old Osborne Garden Hill clearing lease agreement as an example when drawing up this agreement with his Magee nephews.  [That would give the ‘10-year’ timing credence, from 1839-1849, before the Murrays moved from Wollongong to the Ulladulla area].

In 1859 there were up to 20 people living at Ulladulla town whilst nearly 200 people lived on the fertile farming lands that surrounded the Settlement and north to Conjola with 154 names on the local electoral roll. [16]


Post Office for Milton

          The postal records of Milton commence with a petition dated 8th January, 1859, from residents of the Ulladulla district[17].  They complained that the Post Office in the township of Ulladulla (which consisted of  20 adults] was inconvenient for the 400 adults in the Settlement of Milton 6 miles distant, having to travel weekly a distance of forty eight miles for their letters and papers.  The petition was signed by 88 people, and those names included family members – A. McLean, Francis McMahon, Charles Murray Sen., Francis McGee, Walter McLean, Charles McGee, Edward McMahon, Charles Murray Jnr. and Thomas McGee.


1860 Disasters

          The year 1860, was probably one of the worst flood years ever with serious flooding in February, May, July, August and November.  The floods were bad all along the South Coast and the distress was sufficiently widespread to bring both government relief and private charity.[18]  In the Milton Ulladulla Directory for 1860 there were two entries for Charles Murray Senior  – as a registered voter and landowner and also as a donor to the Shoalhaven Flood Relief.

           Tragedy of a more personal kind was also to hit them. On the 29th March, 1860, Charles Senior and Susan would have been much saddened by the early death in Sydney of their eldest daughter, Mary McCarthy.  She was only 32 years when she died, leaving behind four young children as orphans.  Her husband, John, had predeceased her by only a few months.


Birth of Milton town

The private township of Milton had been established by John Booth in 1860.  By 1862, at Shoalhaven, some 4,000 acres had been chosen by free selectors whilst the following year, land between Conjola and Milton was also taken up.  However, it appeared that nobody wanted what was considered then to be the ‘bad land between Milton and Ulladulla harbour’.  In the meantime, the desirable land near Milton must have been increasing in value for the pioneering landholders.

          Towards the end of 1865, Charles Murray Senior sold some of his land to a neighbour, Robert Cork.  Almost 10 years after purchasing his 40-acre lot at Bunnair, a conveyance was drawn up, on 1st February 1866, between:

  •    …Charles Murray the Elder of Ulladulla and Susannah Murray his wife and Robert Cork Farmer for the price of Eighty pounds, all that piece or parcel of land … containing by admeasurement forty acres … at Bunnair … being the land sold as Lot 43 … and granted by the Crown to the said Charles Murray by Deed Poll or Grant dated the 3rd November 1856.

Daughter Margaret Murray marries

Youngest daughter, Margaret (28), living in Redfern, Sydney, married Daniel Gallagher, son of the late Mr. Patrick Gallagher of Ballyshannon, County Donegal, Ireland on 20 October 1864 in Sydney.


Bushfires and more floods

          After a particularly hot dry summer, on 24th December 1868, great bushfires swept through the district and the tradespeople of Milton had to go out to assist the farmers to fight the fires. The local press recorded that Charles Murray Senior, his nephew Thomas McGee and others suffered heavy losses. There would, no doubt, be very little celebrating done in many homes in the district that Christmas!

          After years of drought, which included the horrific bushfires in 1868, the rains finally came in 1870.  In fact, it was a year of devastating floods and stormy seas with record rainfalls reported all over Australia.  The Milton district was seriously affected this time by the floods.  In some homesteads and dairies the waters rose more than knee-deep.[19]  For those pioneer emigrant families, such as the Murrays from County Fermanagh, who had found their way to Ulladulla in a bid to make a new life, that life was often a struggle to come to terms with this new and often hostile environment.


The Ulladulla Rifles

         Such volunteer corps had started in the latter half of the 19th century as the result of fears of invasion by Russia and France bent on building colonial empires. Ulladulla went on to establish this voluntary militia unit which was composed of men who enthusiastically enjoyed the fellowship of drilling in uniform and of competitive rifle shooting. The names of Charles Murray’s sons, Charles Jr, James and Phillip were listed regularly in the Milton – Ulladulla Directory from 18691875 as privates in the Ulladulla Volunteer Rifles (UVR). Many other local young men had also joined up, including their cousins T h o m a s a n d F r a n c is M c G e e, s c h o ol t e a c h e r P a t r ic k D o w n e y, a n d B r o t h e r – in – law, Charles McLean, who became a champion rifle shot. It seems that Ulladulla had a team of crack shots!  


Death of pioneer Charles Murray the Elder

            On 19th June 1872, Charles Murray the Elder died at the age of 80 years from ‘cancer of the asophagus’.  He had completed his struggle with the forest and the elements.  After transporting his family from one side of the world to the other, he had succeeded in leaving his children with the Irishman’s dream – many acres of their own fertile land.  At the end of a hard working and productive life, he was survived by five of his six children.  These children, as well as his McGee, Johnston, Haughet nieces and nephews, now had growing Australian-born families of their own to carry on his dream.

           According to his death certificate, Charles the Elder was buried in the ‘RC Section Avondale Ulladulla’.  Witnesses were Andrew McLean (his son-in-law) and Patrick Downey, who was at that time the teacher at the nearby RC Denominational School.  Charles Murray’s name does not appear on the list of burials mentioned earlier.  (It did not state the words ‘Armstrong’s Forest’ or ‘Yatteyattah’ on his burial details).  Children of Marriage were – Living: James 49, Philip 47, Charles 40, Ellen 43, Margaret 37; Deceased: Mary 33.


The growth of Milton

With many farms established around the Settlement, by 1875, the township of Milton was taking off and providing the district’s residents with banking services, blacksmiths, builders, general stores, Post Office, a bakery, three hotels and four churches –  Roman Catholic, Church of England, Congregational, and Wesleyan/Methodist.[20]. This historic township, established in 1860, had become the commercial centre for the entire district by 1875. 


Death of Susan Murray 

Charles Murray’s s widow, Susan (Susanna’ on her death certificate) survived her husband and lived for a further five years.   She was probably living, towards the end of her life, with her second son Phillip and daughter-in-law Rosina.  She died at ‘the residence of her son Philip Murray, Armstrong’s Forest, near Ulladulla’ – on 9th May 1877 of  ‘decay of nature’.  She was buried on May 11th at the ‘Roman Catholic Cemetery, Armstrong’s Forest, Avondale, Ulladulla’.  The burial witnesses were her son Charles Murray and nephew Charles McLean.  Place of marriage was given as ‘Kesh County Fermanagh, Ireland’.   Children of marriage – Living: James 53, Philip 51, Ellen 48, Charles 46, Margaret 44; Deceased: Mary (died aged 31 years). 


As the Armstrong’s Forest / Yatte Yattah cemetery, where Charles and Susan Murray were buried, no longer exists, and their headstone has disappeared, a plaque has been affixed to his son James’ Headstone at the Murray family cemetery on the Rissmore Conjola property where James’ descendants still reside in 2014.

The Armstrong’s Forest story

           Why this area was known as ‘Armstrong’s Forest’ is an interesting story, as that place name no longer exists on any maps of the area.  An illuminating letter from local man, Percy Hale Sheaffe, who signed himself as JP and described himself as Captain of the aforementioned Ulladulla Rifles, followed up an 1873 petition for a post office by the residents of  ‘Armstrong’s Forest.  In his letter, he throws some light on how and when the area, which was known by this name and, thereafter, came to be changed to the name ‘Yatte Yattah’ and thereafter was referred to as such on maps.   

As a petition has been sent to you respectfully asking for the establishment of a Post Office for this vicinity, sometimes called Armstrongs Forest (from a stockman’s name and the fact that years ago it was, but is no longer Forest), may I respectfully beg to suggest, in your naming the proposed Post Office, if kindly granted, the retention of the native name by which the locality is also generally known of Yatteyattah, anglice [a Latinism meaning in English] Waterfall from a picturesque cascade quite near the site of the proposed Post Office.  I would beg to remark that the name Yatte Yattah of four syllables or ten letters is simpler than Armstrongs Forest which requires sixteen letters.[21]


Meaning of Yatte Yattah

The aboriginal meaning of Yatte Yattah is generally given as ‘water tumble down’.   It was noted that the writer of the aforementioned follow-up petition called his property Waterfall Farm.  The Yatte Yattah waterfalls are situated in what remains of a beautiful rainforest.  Apparently, these waterfalls used to be a favourite place of interest to local people and their visitors and, in the late 1800s, Sunday picnics there were a regular thing. The celebrated local poet Henry Kendall seems to have had some competition, as beautifully written poetry by others who lived in the area, extolling the beauties of such local landmarks, is increasingly being found. Many people over the years have been inspired by the sight of the falls, and so it was that an unknown poet of days gone by put pen to paper and left us these stanzas to celebrate the spectacle.


       Do you know those dells with wattles gay

That smell so sweet at the break of day

When the magpies pipe by the silv’ry spray

In the cool cool glades out at Yatte.   

Then come with me when the kookas call,

Where the fern trees wave by the waterfall,

For there’s joy in the bush for one and all

In the cool cool glades of old Yatte.’[22]



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Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1.  Bayley, William A.  History of Shoalhaven, Nowra : NSSC, 1965.
  2.  East of Pigeon House, 1981 p.3.
  3.  Skarratt, A.C.  Milton-Ulladulla Directory, Milton : A C Skarratt, 1993.
  4.  SRNSW Land Records 51/8424 28Aug 1851.
  5.  Kendall, 1989, p.51′
  6.  Crago, Maxwell Roy.  Residents of the Illawarra District 1855-56, Wollongong, 1980, p.76.
  7.  The Avondale at West Dapto was originally granted to Dr. William Elyard R.N. who sold it later to Henry Osborne of Marshall Mount, which adjoined.
  8.  Nulladolla 1988 p.35′
  9.  Nulladolla 1988 p.35′
  10. Bernard Brown Diaries held by Nowra Library Family History Group and Mitchell Library.
  11.  Bernard Brown Diaries held by Nowra Library Family History Group.
  12.  It is impossible to identify the 80 acre parcel by the bounds description in the conveyance – (John Cooke).
  13.  “Herman Lau and his sojourns (1854-1859) in Sydney, Goulburn, Braidwood, Araluen, Moruya and Shoalhaven”, Studies in Australian Biblioraphy, No.35, Book Collectors’ Society of Sydney.  A digest of the book that Hermann Lau wrote and published at his own expense in Hamburg in 1860.  It was called Vier jahre in Australian: selbsterlebnisse und reisebilder aus der Colonie New-South-Wales. (Four years in Australia: personal experiences in and travel scenes from the Colony of New South Wales) p.214-215. A xeroxed copy is in the Mitchell Library, Sydney.
  14.  Nulladolla 1988 p.13-14.
  15.  NSWRS Publicans’Licences No. 7/1508 Reel 1239 Page 284.
  16.  Dunn, Cathy.  Marlin tales: a history of hotels in Ulladulla, Milton NSW:Cathy Dunn, 1998,  p.13.
  17.  Milton PO History, p.2-3 (copy at SAG – Pamphlet folders).
  18.  Gibbney 1980 p.29.
  19.   McAndrew 1991 p.78.
  20.  Dunn, Cathy. (1998) p.16.
  21.  McAndrew 1991 p.49.
  22. McAndrew 1991 p.49