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From Cooma to Bombala
The following transcription was provided by Judy Richards [judy.richards-at-westnet.com.au]
The Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday 8 July 1873
Sorely against my will I had to take my departure from Cooma without paying my promised visit to its mines. For five days the rain came down with "provoking steadiness: the downpour proved' too much for the black soil of Manaro, tracks became swamps impassable for vehicles, and a severe cruel trial for saddle horses to visit mining districts or by-places under such circumstances was next to an impossibility; therefore, with feelings of reluctance, the first day which afforded a glimpse of sunshine found me on the road for Bombala.
Monaro is one of the most lovely portions of our fair colony — a beautiful country to travel over in summer-time, but in winter and wet, seasons I would not send a valuable dog of mine on its roads, good and innocent (of blue metal) as they are.'
I do not wish to take to myself the part of a perpetual grumbler, for I well know that it is of little use to point out defects unless practicable remedies can be applied. Now it happens in this case that the remedy might be rather an expensive one, for nothing short of a well constructed metalled road or roads would meet the difficulty. From Cooma to Bombala is a distance of about 60 miles, and every inch of the way would require the stonebreaker. Macadam would or should be the only watchword from end to end of the line. Fortunately the plains are basaltic, the rock crops out every inch of the journey; in fact, the boulders have to be removed or cleared away off the wheel tracks, and if ever the road is made there will be no difficulty experienced in procuring metal. It happens in writing of the highways of Manaro that little or no blame can be laid at the door of the Roads Department. Mr. Bundock, the superintendent in charge, works night and day, and every penny voted seems to be judiciously expended.
It is high time for our legislators to open their eyes and become aware of the fact that the roads in the interior are in a most deplorable condition. If any member is sceptical on the point, a drive from Goulburn to Bombala, passing through the important towns Queanbeyan and Cooma, would convince him — particularly if the trip was taken in a wet season. A few days ago, I happened to meet a Canadian farmer — a recent arrival in the colony. He seemed a highly intelligent man; and in answer to my inquiry as to his opinion of New South Wales, his words were, “Well, I like the country; but what fearfully bad roads you have!" The simple Canadian is simply right in his assertion; and if emigrants are to be enticed to our shores, "our ways must be mended."
Manaro is a fine and a wealthy district. In no part of the colony does the pastoral tenant value his holding more than does the Manaro squatter.
The immense sums which flow yearly from the local land agents to the Treasury afford a solid proof of Monaro's wealth and worth. From sale and selection over £40,000 passed through Mr. Robinson's (the Cooma land agent's) hands during the last twelve months; and Bombala has not been backward in following suit with additions to the treasure chest. When districts furnish so many golden proofs of their worth, but little argument is required to convince the most stubborn of the necessity of immediate Legislative attention to their wants. Why should the inhabitants of Monaro be subjects of all kinds of annoyances, great and trivial — delay of teams with supplies, non-arrival of mails, &c ?. When I was in Cooma, the Sydney Mail failed to put in an appearance for fifty-one hours after its regular official time of delivery! This, to say the least of it, or write the best, proved a great inconvenience to many worthy residents.
Fancy a letter, perhaps an important one, being on the road between Sydney and Bega, a distance of 312 miles, for thirty days. I have heard of such a case occurring within this last eighteen months; a delay of this kind must be styled as vexatious. Bad or good, however, as the road may be, I had bettor wade through my correspondence and the sticky mud, from Cooma to the town of "Nimitybelle," where I find accommodation for the night.
Nimitybelle is a post and telegraph station, surrounded by a-few good farms; a village cheerful enough to the gaze in the summer time, but partaking much of the duck pond class in the winter; a couple of churches, a school, and a windmill, which mill by the way cannot be, through its proximity to a road, be worked by Boreas's aid, "for mark," a windmill must be a certain distance, 100 yards, I think, from a main road, or a statute will intercept its passage of arms. The mill in question, at present, is worked by equine power.
A few miles before reaching the township, the bare plains are left, and the road runs "through a lightly-timbered country, which affords an agreeable relief in the form of a variation of scene to the traveller. From Nimitybelle to the Native Dog, thirteen miles past a few sheep stations, up and down hills, the travelling, through the wretchedness of the road, is positively dangerous. The Native Dog is not a true dingo, although a bite may be had at the station bearing that name, where an accommodation-house, kept by Mr. Ranken, is situated. Ten miles on, an extensive station, Bibbenluke, is reached. Here a small township is in course of formation: and after crossing the river, a turn to the left may be taken, if the coast (not Bombala) is the destination of the traveller. My way lay to the right, and before me a prospect of on eight-mile ride after sunset before Bombala could be made. Fortunately when four miles on my course, I met a companion I wrote fortunately, for it proved highly necessary to have a guide in approaching Bombala, for be it known that at the regular road crossing of the Bombala River much danger is to be apprehended, and if not drowning, a certain dunking. My guide in the present instance proved to be a Wesleyan clergyman, a sturdy young Christian, and following in his wake I made a detour to the left of the main road, and we crossed the river, entering at the town’s side through a farmer’s paddock, a privilege we had to pay for at the rate of 6d. per head. To reach the southern side of the town the river again had to be forded, this accomplished in a short time, I found myself comfortably seated before host Heritage’s fire. A little chilled but none the worse for the journey. The next morning proved fine, and I had a stroll through the town, which I will attempt a description of in as brief a manner as possible.
Twenty-four years ago wheat paddocks occupied the vale whereon the town of Bombala now is situated. The town has a bright and flourishing appearance, and may be safely rated as one of the best, if not the best, of Manaro's townships. The river flows from the north to the south-west, describing a segment of a circle through the town. The southern potion appears to be the principal one, for there may be found the principal business places. Entering from the north by the main road;, on the right the Catholic and Presbyterian Churches are passed, both neat and small buildings, then the Court house, a weather-beaten old wooden structure, partaking more of a blot than an ornament to the place. A turn to the right leads through a few business places, some old-fashioned, and some new of handsome extensor. On the river bank, close to the crossing, the remains of an old foot bridge may be observed; the floods some time back effected its sudden removal.
There is a talk of a new bridge being built; the sooner it is placed in hand the better. The passage at present has to be made by ford or boat — the former mode is inconvenient, the latter expensive. Across the river on the right is the Church of England — a good plain stone building – and facing the north-east from its site, the main street, named Maybe Street, presents itself. As I strolled along this street with the peculiar name I noticed several new buildings in progress, a healthy sign of the town's advancement. On the left hand, a most excellent two-storied stone building of handsome design;, recently erected by the Commercial Bank, claims attention. Past that: Mr Kesterten’s mill and neat cottage residence. On the right, a building temporarily used as a school of arts, furnished with a reading room and small library. An allotment has been granted the trustees of this institution on which shortly will be erected a suitable hall.
Stores, hotels and other business places are now passed; also the post office and telegraph station. At the extreme N.E. end of the street, on the left, stands the Wesleyan Church, a neat brick building recently completed, and on the right high up on a hill the Public school, a wooden building in very fair order. Mr Hopkins in charge — by repute a most excellent master; the attendance about 90. In wet season the crossing of the river is so difficult many of the little ones fail to put in an appearance. Unfortunately, I might write, Bombala as yet has not been incorporated. Several of the leading townsmen have made strenuous efforts in the matter, but the opposition or obstructionist party seems too strong. The town’s position which affords good drainage, renders it cleanly; down the hills slope the gutters, flowing to the river, which act as scavengers. If these drains or gutters only removed filth all would be well; unfortunately they do more, for they bring away portions of the streets after each rainfall, and if not treated in time the best part of the town may in time be swept away. Some of these drains a few years back were only small trickling streams, now they are deep gullies, ever widening, and if ever a town required municipal care Bombala does at the present season. Reference to map will display Bombala but a short distance from the Victorian boundary; gold exists, and has been worked for years, on or about the line demarcation. The Delegate Gold-fieId has produced alluvial gold for many years, and will send in a fair quota for purchase to Bombala. I saw one tidy parcel while in the town in the hands of Mr Kesterten about 140 oz. of most excellent quality.
The Delegate field is principally worked by Chinese. One of the townships in the main part of the diggings is known as China Town. I have heard that its a celestial inhabitants are in a state of prosperity. In Bombala may be found the office of the Rising Sun Gold Mining Company, a New South Wales company, working 20 miles across our border on Victorian soil. The shareholders are principally Bombala people, the capital £3000, land worked 30 acres. Two years ago the work of raising stone commenced, and since that time 960 oz have been obtained from 850 tons of quartz. The vein averages 1 foot wide, very regular from surface to a depth of 160 feet, lately there has been a break to the north, but the shaft still holds the vein. Mr. J D. Stafford is the general manager of the company, and from that gentleman I learn that the future workings will be on the tribute system.
Having made the coast, and travelled through Eden, Pambula, Merimbula, my next article will treat of those places, also deal a little with the roads from Manaro to the seaports named the Big Jack and the Tantawanglo; both of late have grown into celebrity, and their respective merits furnish many a discussion twixt the Manaro and coast people.