The Valley’s industries

These history notes are contributed to Valley Ventures by one of our members, Max Farley.

The Central Coast was a by-passed district in its early days with the only realistic access to the Sydney market being by water from Gosford. Yarramalong Valley residents had the additional task of first getting their goods down the Valley to Gosford. The handful of early settlers were, however, subsistence farmers who relied on the few animals they had and on the food they grew for themselves. Trees were only felled to make rudimentary shelters for the family and to clear land for growing vegetables and crops and to make space for animals and poultry.

Timber

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Yarramalong Valley timber cutters

These few words cannot tell the Valley’s timber story in any detail. As more settlers arrived in the latter part of the 1800s the potential to sell cut timber grew. When the Great North Road was developed in the 1850s it became possible to send timber from the top of the Yarramalong Valley to Maitland in one direction and to Wisemans Ferry in the other. By the 1880s the easiest timber to access had been removed and it was not economic to spend effort cutting and transporting timber from higher up the Valley’s hillsides. The industry declined.

The situation changed dramatically with the opening of the railway line from Newcastle to Sydney in 1889. Transporting timber in quantity to those markets became possible. Yards for the loading of timber were established where the road from the Valley met the railway line. This was where the racecourse now is. A town, Wyong, was created. This new phase of the industry peaked about 1910 and began to fade when available trees were again becoming less available in the 1920s. With timber from the surrounding State Forests together with some regrowth, the industry continued for many years but on a vastly reduced scale. There are now no mills in the Valley.

Subsequent Industries

In 1906 it was said “that when the timber is gone, Wyong is done”. Happily this proved wrong.

The 1889 railway was not only a boon for timber. The access to the markets of Sydney and Newcastle in particular could be utilised by other industries which had been developing in the shadow of the timber industry. There were a number of these. Yarramalong Valley residents were well experienced in tending to cows, orcharding and poultry farming. It is not at all surprising those three activities expanded commercially to fill the timber void.

Dairying

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Other dates could be chosen to mark the beginning of commercial dairying in the Valley but the opening of a dairy in about 1890 by Anders Christenson at his home “The Cedars”, known as the “Stone House”, was important. It and its adjacent cheese house still remain at 595 Brush Creek Road. He also had a piggery and produced ham and bacon. From that date on, dairying expanded rapidly. In 1907 a co-operative, the Wyong Butter Factory, was set up near Alison Homestead. Farmers supplied cream to the Butter Factory to make butter which was sold in Sydney. By 1921, 200 dairy farmers were sending both milk and cream to the factory. It became known as the Milk Factory. The best dairying days were the 1950s, 60s and 70s before the industry declined. Land prices in the Valley increased to such an extent that for many it became preferable to sell out and put their capital to better use with less physical effort and a better life style.

Orcharding

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Orange trees had been growing in limited numbers in the Shire for many years before the coming of the railway made citrus a commercial industry. The Salmon brothers of Wyong Creek introduced citrus into the Valley in the early 1900s and it became a major industry. Crops were not restricted to citrus but extended to persimmon and stone fruit. Both dairying and orcharding suffered a decline in the depression and after WW2 the necessary land areas were being reduced by urban growth. Large scale orcharding had virtually disappeared as a significant industry by the late 1960s.

Poultry Farming

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Early Yarramalong Valley free-range poultry farm

Poultry farming required relatively little land space and became a main industry when the citrus and dairying industries were declining. In 1961 the Central Coast was producing eight million eggs annually as well as large quantities of meat. However this industry lost its commercial significance in the Valley with the advent of egg production and poultry meat in “battery” cages. These practices do not exist in the Valley.

Change

Much changed in the latter quarter of the 1900s. Timber, dairying, orcharding and poultry farming largely disappeared. At the same time transport to other parts of the Central Coast to Sydney, Newcastle and the Hunter improved even more, particularly with the opening of the M1 (F3) freeway.

These changes had significant social effects. It became possible, particularly for Sydney people, to travel easily to the area and purchase full or part-time rural retreats and hobby farms. Land values increased (a mixed blessing perhaps); education and employment opportunities away from the Valley became available to all particularly women and young people. Cultural attractions not available in the Valley drew people to them.

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The Valley now boasts a variety of farm-stays, horse studs and even a few alpaca farms

Notwithstanding these many changes, the Yarramalong Valley has been able to retain much of its valued rural atmosphere. This is partly because a number of turf farms replaced dairies; properties devoted to horse care – breeding, spelling and riding – multiplied and specialist farms (alpaca, cattle breeding and grazing, deer, donkey, goat) appeared. Even bee breeding and, for a time, wine production. Hospitality activities (farm stays, function venues, dining locations) have emerged. There is no limit to the commercial possibilities available within the Valley to those with imagination and enthusiasm.

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SOURCES: Max Farley; A Pictorial History of the Wyong Shire, Volume 1-5, Edward Stinson.

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Pioneering Personalities: Matthew James Woodbury – 1838-1921

Windsor and Richmond Gazette, Friday 1 April 1921, page 10 (re-printed from Gosford Times)

MATTHEW JAMES WOODBURY.

THE GRAND OLD MAN OF WYONG.

 

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Matthew James Woodbury (1838-1921)

There passed away at 11 o’clock on Sunday night, 20th March, 1921, a man who will never be forgotten as long as Wyong endures, for he was the father of Wyong, and every inhabitant loved him as a child loves a parent. He truly possessed every virtue in high degree; he was gentleness personified; a man of truth, and his word was his bond.

Born on the Mangrove over 83 years ago, his father being an Australian, he came of long-lived people, for his mother died at about 89 and his grandmother at 100. Remaining on the Mangrove till he was 18 years of age, he then proceeded to the Snowy River gold fields at the very time when the white diggers had made a raid upon the Chinese, gold miners, and cut their long pig tails off.

Some time later he found his way to the Wollombi, and thence to the Cedars, Wyong, where and at his late residence he resided 55 years. Hence he was one of the first pioneers that settled in the Wyong district. For half a century the dear old ‘Cedars’ was his home. In the far away days only two kinds of wood were extensively used, oak and cedar, the former for shingles and the latter for fine cabinet work. The timber and the shingles were carted to Maitland, and even slides were much in use when roads were impassable for drays. Away via Yarramalong and the Wollombi to Maitland was the route. In the bush 50 years ago there were practically no timber-getters, except shingle splitters and cedar cutters.

When about 27 years of age he married Miss Eliza O’Neill, of The Cedars. She was a lady beloved by her husband. Great was his grief when some seven years ago she passed away. He never ceased to mourn his loss, even though his children continually ministered unto his comfort in the most loving manner.

His sorrowing daughters are Miss Woodbury, Mrs. W. A. Chapman, Mrs. W. Baldwin, and Miss O. Woodbury, and his sons, Councillor W. B. Woodbury, and Mr. Edwin Woodbury, to whom we extend our deepest sympathy.

Our late friend was the Chairman of the Directors of the Wyong Butter Factory, and had been Chairman from the inception of the company. His very last conversations were about the re-building of the factory on the ideal old site.

He possessed a wonderful memory, and up to within a few hours of his end, his mental faculties were unimpaired. He knew he was nearing The Bar, and was much comforted to see a number of his devoted children round his bedside.

The remains were brought to his beloved church, where service was conducted by Rev. Father Herlihy, and thence removed, by procession to the Jilliby cemetery, where a very solemn service was followed by a most eloquent address by the priest, which will be treasured in the memory of Protestants and Catholics alike for years to come as a grand tribute to a good man. The immense concourse, testified to the worth and to the nobility of character of Matthew James Woodbury. Numerous wreaths and floral tributes were offered by loving friends.

Memorial to Matthew James Woodbury and his wife Eliza at Jilliby Cemetery [photo source: Susan Buck]

Memorial to Matthew James Woodbury and his wife Eliza O’Neill at Jilliby Cemetery [photo source: Susan Buck 2014]

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SOURCES: Trove Digital Newspaper Archive; NSW Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages Historical Indexes; Photo of M. J. Woodbury from Blue Gum Flat to Budgewoi, Charles Swancott, 1963.

William ‘Jilliby’ Smith

This is a transcript of the talk Lorna Clayton gave as the guest speaker at the Wyong District Pioneers Dinner on Saturday, 20 October 2001.

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Attendees at the Wyong Pioneers Dinner 1915, William ‘Jilliby’ Smith circled in red.

At the first District Pioneer Dinner in 1915 one of the speakers was my grandfather William SMITH Jnr.

William SMITH Jnr’s, story commences well before 1915. He was born at McDonald River and at 21 years of age, he rode his horse with all his worldly goods on a pack horse, he came to his property at the corner of Jilliby Road, and Little Jilliby Road. He pitched his tent and on the 11 July, 1881 became a resident of Jilliby.

The Residents were very few at the time in Jilliby, he was the first Smith there and in the years to follow, he became known throughout the Central Coast and beyond as ‘JILLIBY SMITH’.

My grandfather did not have any skills in carpentry and was fortunate to engage one of the few residents who lived there to build him a two-room cabin from sawn timber slabs.

When this was completed he returned to McDonald River and in early 1882 he married his betrothed Many Ann SHEEN at St Albans. Together they rode back to their cabin, Mary Ann riding side-saddle of course. They eventually had a comfortable family home of weatherboards built where they lived for the rest of their lives. Their firstborn was a son Alfred Ernest SMITH, who was my father, then two daughters Mable and Beatrice, which completed William and Mary Ann’s family.

William SMITH Jnr, was a teamster and farmer, he was very involved in the community and played a prominent part in having the school built at Jilliby, which was officially opened in May 1889. The first school teacher was William BALDWIN, he boarded with my Grandparents for 15 years until he married, he continued teaching at the school for a few more years and when he left the school the residents of Jilliby presented him with an illuminated address in appreciation for his services for “nigh” on twenty years. At the bottom of that illuminated address is the signature William SMITH.

He was proud of the fact that he drew the timber for the first building in Wyong. Also he was pleased to have witnessed the arrival of the first Ballast Train to come to Wyong on a newly constructed rail line.

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He was also one of the early suppliers to the Wyong Butter Factory, when it opened in November 1907. He was elected to the Board of Directors in 1909 and from 1909 to 1929 he had spent some 16 years on the Board. This could well have been more, however, in 1913 he was not successful in the outcome of a tied vote situation or maybe it could well have been 18 of those 20 years.

My grandparents welcomed travellers and many ministers of any denominations, they had a meal and mostly stayed overnight. One of the travelling parsons told my grandfather a story he liked to relate about coming across a bullock wagon stuck in a creek crossing, the bullock driver was “cursing up a storm” in language not fit for a parson’s ears. The parson tried to pacify the teamster and told him “not to take the Lords name in vain, put your faith in providence son”. “Providence”, came the teamsters angry reply, “He is the laziest so-and-so bullock I have in the team”.

William SMITH Jnr, was a staunch Methodist and helped to establish the Methodist Church in Wyong. At Jilliby he was the Sunday school superintendent for about 30 years, and was a lay preacher for the Church. For about 20 years. He would conduct the Church services at all three places, Jilliby, Dooralong and Kanwal. On some Sundays he would conduct the Church services at all three places, (my sister Thelma told me of this), and would go with him in the sulky if grandma was not well enough to attend.

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Mary Ann and William ‘Jilliby’ Smith

In 1932 relatives and friends packed the hall at Jilliby to celebrate the Golden Wedding Anniversary of William and Mary Ann SMITH. The residents presented them with a pair of seagrass chairs. The youngest granddaughter presented her grandmother with a bouquet of flowers. The master of ceremonies for the evening was a family friend and well known local identity Darcy ROSE, on the stage he commented on the curly-haired four-year-old’s pretty dress and quick as a wink she lifted the hem of her dress saying, “And pants to match”. I can assure everyone here today, I no longer flash my undies at potential parliamentarians nor existing ones.

My grandfather was slow to anger, he always spoke in a very precise manner, a deliberate delivery. My grandma’s words came at a rapid pace. I recall one day when I was about eight or nine years of age, when I went to stay with my grandmother who had not been very well, whilst grandfather attended a church function. Upon his arrival home I had prepared his afternoon tea and I had just taken the teapot to the kettle on the fuel stove as he came into the kitchen, “BE CARFUL CHILD YOU MIGHT SCALD YOURSELF!” was his great concern. “LEAVE HER ALONE YOU!”, was grandma’s snappy reply, “She is more capable of making a cup of tea than you are, Zillah hasn’t reared a useless girl yet”, and I was Zillah’s number five.

At the church bazaars when afternoon tea was served, the ladies took delight in asking grandfather, if he would like another cup of tea, he would always reply “Yes please, just an eighth of a cup” and the story goes that this would happen three or four times, and he always said “Just an eight of a cup” and they would fill the cup each time. Grandfather liked his tea.

I can remember in the late 1930s my grandfather saying to my mother, “I don’t know what the world was coming to, the girls of today think no more of showing their thighs than the girls of Mary Ann’s day would think of showing their ankles”. I am thankful for my grandfather’s sake that he was spared the sight of a girl in a bikini.

My grandparents, like most pioneers, would have faced many hardships, such as crop failures, floods, and droughts. My grandparents had family sorrows, such as watching their son and daughter-in-law’s first born who lost his battle for life at the age of nine months. The loss also, of a young son-in-law as a result of wood chopping accident. Then they took their widowed daughter and six-month-old grandson back into the family home. Then to live to see their only son, my father, die at the age of 53 years. These must have been devastating times for them, they had great faith in the Lord and they rejoiced with their family in the many good times they had.

Had my grandfather been asked to write a caption for his life, I am confident the epitaph of William SMITH Jnr, may well have been – “I ASKED FOR AN EIGHTH OF A CUP, AND MY CUP RUNNETH OVER”.

Lorna M. CLAYTON