History of Kundabung

Port Macquarie was established as a Penal Settlement in 1821.

William Wilson had been appointed by Governor Macquarie as Engineer and Inspector of Works to the new Colony. His duties also included surveying and exploring. He probably accompanied the survey party under Captain Allman who mapped the Maria River and Pipers Creek. The Wilson River was named after him and the Maria River after his Portuguese wife, but he gave it the soft pronunciation of "Mareea". Wilson traced the three rivers to their sources. Piper's Creek was probably named after Captain Piper.

Convicts working south from Moreton Bay (Queensland) probably passed through our Kundabung area because they mentioned the big river (our Macleay) when they reached Port Macquarie.

It was on one of these exploring and surveying expeditions in 1831 that Surveyor Ralfe discovered a stratum of limestone of a very superior quality about six miles from the head of navigation of Pipers Creek.

The Police Magistrate at Port Macquarie was directed to provide twenty prisoners to make a road from the Wilson River to construct a kiln for the burning of the limestone. Cells were built for the convicts to be locked up at night and the cells stood for many years before they crumbled. The stones from which they were built were later burnt for lime. When it was announced that all convicts were freed some of the convicts working in the quarry threw the implements they used to hew the stone up into a nearby tree. The handle portion of these implements could be seen for many many years until they rusted away bit by bit. A few years ago this tree was fallen by George Blackwell and when the saw cut through the log the remains of these implements were revealed and the hewn piece of timber is now in the possession of the Macleay River District Historical Society.

The area around the lime station was surveyed into blocks long before any portion of the Macleay was surveyed.

Different lime kilns still remain at the lime station. The limestone was burnt up there and conveyed down to the loading wharf at Kundabung by low wagons with wooden wheels drawn by a team of convicts. During construction of the many convict-built buildings at Port Macquarie, the lime used was obtained from the lime station. It was loaded onto barges at Kundabung and convicts were again used to row those boats all the way down Piper's Creek into the Maria then into the Wilson and then into the Hastings to Port Macquarie.

In the early days the land that had been surveyed was held by Military Officers until Governor Darling freed the country. The area south of Kundabung was known as Cooperabung Station and was held by the Pountney Family.

The first settler around our present Kundabung was F. Chapman at Ravenswood where a guest house and wine shop was later established. The coaches exchanged horses there on their way north and passengers and the coach drivers stayed overnight at the guest house. The tale was told that on more than one occasion when the sun rose next day the coach driver had imbibed too much wine the night before and could not be woken from his sleep.

Other early settlers were J. Kenah and A. Donnelly. Then came W. Shelton, L. Batchelor, P. Larcombe, F. Hancock, C. Clarke, J. Farrawell and E. Simmons. Then at the beginning of this century A. & J. Rosenbaum, W. O'Leary, E. Grace, J. Robertson, F. Laithwaite, W. Cochrane, W. Elford, T. Conway, T. Tolhurst, W. Mayhew, E. Smith and W. Broadhurst were the earliest settlers up around Smiths Creek.

These first settlers were all engaged in the timber industry and logs were brought out of the bush by bullocks on skids then hauled by horses to the wharves on either side of where Smiths Creek entered Pipers Creek. The logs were then taken by log punt to Hibbards Mill at Port Macquarie.

The tale was told that the men on a log punt had loaded the punt with logs and it must have been a very hot summer's day so they decided to walk across country to get a nice cool drink of beer. When they came back the punt had sunk with its load of logs as they had left it at low tide and as the tide rose the load of logs caught under the limbs of an overhanging tree and the vessel filled with water and the punt was sunk. Only the paddlewheel was ever removed from the punt and when I first saw it in 1925 it was well above the waterline and we used to dive off the nose of the old punt. It was visible for many years and then reeds and trees grew in it. That was down at the Kundabung wharf and perhaps some of the timber work could still be found under the mud and silt.

Jim Haydon, whose Uncle was Bill Haydon, the renowned Cedar King, owned the Blackwell property which is across Piper's Creek behind the village of Kundabung and the bridge "Jim's Bridge" was named after him. Other settlers came. W. Dodds, J. Blackwell, J. Cassidy all owned bullock teams. By this time it was the bullock teams who hauled the logs all the way to wharves here at Kundabung. The early settlers cleared their land and as well as having bullock teams they began dairy farms and the cream was taken to Kempsey.

When the railway line was being built many of the men began cutting sleepers and on November 27, 1917 the railway was officially connected to Sydney and the Station was named Smith's Creek. There were many sleeper cutters in the district for many years and the sleepers were hewn with broad-axes and carted to the railway station by bullock teams then later by motor-lorries.

The first school was opened on the 5th July, 1909 and called Smith's Creek. Following the opening of the railway station, people started the village near the railway and the name Smith's Creek proved unsuitable. On the suggestion of the late O.O. Dangar, member for the Macleay Hastings, the name Kundabung (aboriginal for Black Apple tree) was given to the railway station, the village and the school.

The school was moved three miles down to the Pacific Highway in 1930. The school closed in December, 1967.

Mail for the settlement first came by boat from Port Macquarie to Boat Harbour, Maria River. Later when a road was built through from Port Macquarie to Kempsey the mail came by coach. In the early 1920s Mick O'Leary opened the Post Office near the railway and it remained there until it was moved to its present site on the Pacific Highway.

As the timber industry expanded, saw mills were built by Lionel Kenah, Clyde Cavanagh and Lionel Everson, and worked by D. Weingarth and George Worthing. The first mill was built by Lionel Kenah at Smiths Creek for W. O'Leary in 1941. In Kundabung in 1949 a mill was built by the O'Leary Brothers and in approximately 1951/52 a mill was built by Jim Slater.

From the early 1930s a Committee worked very hard trying to raise money to build a Hall. This Hall Committee had the full support of the whole district. Telegraph Point Hall was hired in which to hold balls and a bus was run from Kempsey bringing dancers from Kempsey and picking up along the highway and at Kundabung. Otherwise Sports Days were held to raise money to build the hall. Dances were also held in an old house which stood on the present playground site. Sometimes a dance was held in one of the private homes or a barn. All to raise money for a hall, on a block of land to be purchased.

Then permission was gained to clear a site for the building of a hall on the present Reserve. Also most of the residents wanted enough room to build a tennis court and cricket pitch. For quite a time there was a deal of argument as to the building of the hall as many of the residents did not think it should be built across the railway line as people would be in danger crossing the line.

Now the residents of Kundabung and district should be proud of the improvements they have made to the Hall and Tennis Courts and the whole Reserve.

To my mind Kundabung is the most important suburb of Kempsey and it was right and fitting that the first event of the celebrations of our sesquicentenary year should be held at Kundabung.

All that I have written may not be correct, I was born at Telegraph Point in 1914 and in 1924 my parents came to my grandfather's farm at the junction of Pipers Creek and the Maria River and I have always been interested in local history.

By Sheila C. Blackwell

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