"A potted history" Robertson Things to Do Tip by iandsmith
Robertson Things to Do: 13 reviews and 34 photos
Charles Throsby was passing south from the Moss Vale area to Kangaroo Valley in 1818, en route to Jervis Bay and he sent his servant Joseph Wild off with some local Aborigines to have a look at the area east of Moss Vale which became known as the Yarrawa Brush. With the help of local Aborigines Throsby later found a route up from the Illawarra.
Surveyor Robert Hoddle and a gang of convicts cut a bridle path down the slopes in 1830 as part of a track intended to join the Cowpastures (Camden) to Kiama and Gerringong. He described the Yarrawa Brush as 'the most formidable brush I have ever seen. The vines so thickly entwined around the huge trees and small as to render the sun obscure at the time it shone with great brilliancy'.
It was the town's rich soil which fostered the dense rainforest which once covered the entire plateau and which kept the settlers away for so long after it was discovered. But, in the end, they destroyed nearly all of it to establish their homes and farms.
You can see just how thick it used to be by visiting the Roberston Nature Reserve just behind the main street (Hoddle).
It was the 1861 Land Act of Sir John Robertson (former Premier of NSW) which cleared the way for the establishment of the town which took his name. It provided for free selection before survey of unreserved blocks of crown land at £1 per acre with a 25 per cent down payment and the rest to be paid at leisure provided the owner lived on the land for three years and made certain improvements to it.
In 1862 Kiama alderman John Hanrahan and his brother-in-law William Davis investigated the Yarrawah Brush, found and followed Hoddle's track, located some excellent land and selected it. This was reported in the Kiama Independent newspaper, encouraging others from Jamberoo and Kiama to follow. Land was reserved by the government that year as 'Three Creeks'.
A basic track from Kiama was cut in 1862, another from Albion Park in 1863, and the new settlement was joined to the Old South Road via Kangaloon in 1867. The townsite was surveyed in 1863 by Surveyor Campbell who was so impressed he reserved land for himself and built 'Rossgol' which is still standing. He drew up a town plan which was approved in 1865. By that time there were 1200 selectors who had taken up 30 000 acres of land, despite the fact that it was a three-day ride for supplies and 30 km to the nearest doctor.
The first lots were sold in 1865 when Roberston was called 'Yarrawa'. The first school in the village was built in 1872 and what was probably the first store in 1876. A slab building for Methodists went up c.1870, to be replaced by a church proper in 1888. The Anglican church opened in 1876.
Steam-driven sawmills opened up in the district in the 1870s to supply the demand for local timber. Shops and houses began to appear in the early 1880s. A post office appeared in 1884 and a school of arts in 1886. By the following year the town had two hotels, two bank branches, three stores, a baker, a bootmaker, a chemist and five butchers. A police station was built in 1887. After the depression of the 1890s growth ceased until the 1920s.
The Burrawang Farmers Club was established in 1878 to promote the improvement of roads, facilities and farming techniques. This organisation evolved into the Robertson Agricultural and Horticultural Society and fostered the first Agricultural Show which was held at Burrawang in 1880 and was transferred to Robertson in 1886.
Macquarie Pass was opened in 1898 facilitating commerce and connections with the coast and with Sydney as the Southern Highlands railway had not extended to Robertson. A motor service carrying passengers and goods commenced operations in 1912. The railway did not arrive until 1932 despite agitation which commenced in 1872.
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