History of Bulahdelah
Prior to 1800's, Bulahdelah was in the hands of the Worimi tribe. The Worimi Tribe occupied an area with the approximate boundaries of the coast from the Hunter River in the south to Forster in the north, across to Gloucester in the northwest and down to Maitland in the southwest. There appears to have been three nurras, which occupied the more western areas. The Worimi wandered over their tribal lands, hunting and gathering food and, because of this nomadic life style, they never established any form of permanent camp. Their huts were always makeshift and erected with the least amount of effort, invariably being little more than a few sheets of bark leaning against a few sticks placed in such a way as to protect them from the prevailing weather.
Although nomadic, their wanderings were not far-reaching because they invariably remained within their nurra territory, which was not large, yet provided all their needs in the way of foods and materials for their artifacts.
The mountain was first recorded by John Oxley a Crown Surveyor in 1818. It was known in those early times as Bulladella Mountain, the outcrop of rock can be seen from the Pacific Ocean and was the northern boundary for convicts and bonded persons.
From 1897 Bulladella Mountain was recognized as a potential mine site and came under the administration of Department of Mines. Mount Alum was found to be the largest deposit of Alunite, in the southern hemisphere. Alunite is an industrial additive.
Many years ago barges steamed up the Myall River to pick up the valuable resource to ship to Sydney, on to South Australia and then on to Runcorn, England, where it was processed.
The rock on Mount Alum consists of ;- Water 7.80%, Alumina 34.70%, Iron Oxide 1.00%, Potash 6.10%, Sulphuric Acid 32.30%, Silica 18.10%.
The Dungog Chronicle Nov 1924 records "A great quantity of the picturesque crags has been exported to England - generally as ballast for wool ships - where it is first put through dehydrating furnaces, then treated with weak sulphuric acid in lead lined vats heated to boiling point, and run off into crystallizing tanks. The crystal alum is finally washed and refined."
Today small amounts of the white rock can be found on the bank of the Myall River when the ships were loaded. Mining ceased in 1952.
In the early 1800's, a tiny settlement was founded around the point formed by the Myall Lake and Boolambayte Creek, and became known as Boolambayte. The reason for the founding of this settlement was those types of timber suitable for boat building schooners, ketches, barges, droghers and paddle-wheelers, had been found there. Tallow wood was used for below the water line and Flooded Gum for above the water line. To supply suitable logs, timber-getters were hired and bullock-drivers with teams were hired to do the hauling.
The settlement progressed rapidly, with small dwellings springing up along the Lake and Creek shores, and back into the bush north and west of the lake at Boolambayte.
[The photo at right: Today Harold Blanch still thrills tourists with his bullock team demonstrations. Photo courtesy of Mr A. Gregory.]
From about 1840 many timber grants were offered to any who applied. From 1913, one of the larger operators in the area was Allen Taylor and Company Limited. The company had a licence from the Forestry Department to cut timber from the Coolongolook Brush which was regarded as among the best stands of timber in NSW.
Operations in that region commenced from a small depot at Mayers Point on Myall Lake. In order to operate on this licence the Taylor firm acquired a short length of tramway built by the then defunct Australian Timber Company. The original line appears to have been built about 1904, for using horse traction. The line travelled inland from Mayers Point. In 1914 Allen Taylor and Company ordered a light type steam locomotive and purchased some 2nd hand rails. The relaying of the line extended into 1915. It would appear the official opening of the line after conversion from horse traction to steam locomotive took place on 29th June 1915. The first locomotive was christened "Aleda" by the wife of Sir Allen Taylor. Sometime after 1915 a saw mill was established on the waters edge at Mayers Point.
Apart from Allen Taylor and Company, there were many other timber operators in the Bulahdelah area. Infrastructure included droghers and barges for water transport; and tramways for transporting timber to the mills, traction engines to haul loads onto the barges for transport down the lakes for shipment to the ocean going craft at Winda Whoppa or Salt Ash on Port Stephens.
During all this local enterprise of timber-getting, boatbuilding and Alunite mining, the townies and the settlers needed supplies of sugar and flour which was a staple part of the diet, everything else was grown or traded with the neighbours. The 'Storeboat' operated by G A Engel & Sons, would depart several days a week from Engel's Store at Tea Gardens and serve the lakeside residents with boots, shoes clothing and all other manner of goods including tea, sugar and flour. The residents made there own bread and the house cow provided the milk.
As the population of the town increased it became an obvious business opportunity. So the advent of the dairy farm. Every small community had access to fresh supplies of milk on a daily basis, sometimes delivered around the town by horse and cart other times collected from the dairy in a 'billy can'.
In the early days, the local dairy farmers would separate cream from the milk into 46-litre cans and deliver the cream, by horse drawn cart, to the Butter Factory behind the hotel in Bulahdelah (then to Jackson St. after a fire burnt the building behind the hotel) owned and operated by the Pile family. There the cream would be processed into butter. Back at the farm the residue would be fed to the pigs or calves. Most dairy farms had a piggery for this very purpose.
Hazel Towers remembers when she was about 12 years old in 1929 the cream in 46-litre cans was delivered from the dairies along Bombah Pt Rd (incl. Geo Squires, Sam Richards, John Dee) to Gooch's ramp south of the bridge for transport to the Hunter Valley Co-op in Hexham. Other areas such as the Crawford, Markwell, Boolambayte and Mayers Flat would have different collection points at convenient places.
From the early 1970's with the institution of a quota system, dairy farms were invited to send their quota of fresh milk to the Hunter Valley Co-op in Hexham. The previously used 46 litre cream cans on table top trucks were replaced by enormous 3640-litre tankers.
In 1976 the NSW Milk Board was replaced by the Dairy industry Authority which was the beginning of deregulation. In 1989 Dairy Farmers joined with the large Hunter Valley and the Shoalhaven Co-ops to form the country's leading dairy business, Australian Co-operative Foods.
With downsizing and changed policies in the mining, timber and dairying industries, Bulahdelah is now more dependant on tourism to provide jobs for the next generation of young people. It currently provides a wide range of accommodation, eating and recreational facilities.
Bulahdelah on the banks of the tranquil Myall River is the heart of the the Myall Lake system.
Source of material: Bulahdelah Historical Society; Anthony Gregory, Myall Lakes.com, Dairy Farmers Co-op; and long time residents of Bulahdelah.