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This interesting collection of history facts was collated by Tom Phillips but the original document that the information from is no longer online. Note: This is a 4 part article – links to the other parts are at the bottom of each page.

If any locals have some more recent memories or events to add, please contact me – especially some in the period 1950-today.


APRIL 21 1770 : Captain James Cook first sighted the Shoalhaven District and named Pigeon House Mountain because it resembled a dove-house with a dome on top. (This conflicts with the report in William A Bayley’s “Shoalhaven” who states this was recorded on 22nd April, 1770).

APRIL 16 1797 : Eight survivors of a party of seventeen entered the Shoalhaven on or about this day. They were from the wreck of the “Sydney Cove” and were attempting to reach Port Jackson from Point Hicks by foot. By April 20th they had reached Jervis Bay. On May 15th the three surviving members of the party were rescued by a fishing boat 14 miles south of Botany Bay.

DECEMBER 7 1797 : George Bass, in a whaleboat with a crew of six seamen, discovered the mouth of a river which he wrote “…..deserves no better name than Shoals Haven”. This was in fact, the Crookhaven River.

APRIL 5 1812 : Thought to be the first white man to cross the Shoalhaven River, the explorer George Evans claimed this honour about 1½ miles west of the present location of Nowra. Evans was on his way north from Jervis Bay. The crossing by Evans and his party took 6 hours. However, he was not the first (see 1797 above). And survivors of the cutter “Nancy”, shipwrecked south of Jervis Bay walked to Port Jackson in April 15. So George Evans wasn’t the first, despite his claim.

APRIL 7 : 1812 Surveyor George Evans climbed Good Dog Mountain (Mt. Cambewarra) to the point just north of the present lookout. He spent the night (7th/8th) on top of Mount Tapitalle. From there he had a view that (he said) “no painter could beautify”.

MARCH 24 1818 : Captain Throsby wrote of entering “a large plain of flat forest called by the natives Tallawa, from whence we saw the deep ravines running to Shoals Haven”.

JANUARY 9 1822 Alexander Berry, in the vessel “Snapper” arrived at Shoalhaven. He was prevented from entering by a line of breakers and so sailed 3 miles south to enter by the Crookhaven River. Finding the northern arm separated by some 250 yards of sand spit from the southern arm, the party “hauled the boat across”. He later returned in June 1822 to settle in the area.

JUNE 21 1822 : Scotsman Alexander Berry arrived at Coolangatta to become first white settler in the Shoalhaven District. His vessel was the 15 ton cutter “Blanche”.

JUNE 23 1822 : Alexander Berry noted in his diary “Shoalhaven Hill, Cullingatty” which was later to be known as “Mount Coolangatta” – meaning splendid view, fine view or good lookout.

JUNE 25 1822 : Hamilton Hume and three men were left by Alexander Berry on an isthmus to build a hut and cut a passage (across the sandspit).

JULY 1 1822 : Broughton Creek was officially named by Alexander Berry and Hamilton Hume after Broughton, the aboriginal stockman who served as a guide to Charles Throsby.

JULY 7 1822 : Completion of Berry’s canal. It took Hamilton Hume and three men twelve days to complete the 209 yard long canal. It was Australia’s first canal. No Environmental Impact Study was required. The river itself cut the canal wider and deeper and dredging many years later opened up the Shoalhaven River for steamships and the coastal trade.

APRIL 26 1842 : First recording of a flood in Shoalhaven River. More floods were recorded in 1852. The most damaging were recorded in February 1860, May 1860, August 1860 and 1870 finally one more for that year started people thinking of moving from Terara and Numbaa to Nowra. The floods of June 1864, April 1867 and June 1867 caused more crop and livestock loss. Another flood was recorded in March 1870 and yet another in April of the same year which on this day reached its peak. This one swept away the Terara Post Office, Telegraph Office, the steam company’s store and the wharf. The paddle steamer “The Coolangatta” (affectionately known as the wheelbarrow), of the Illawarra Steam Navigation Company, was washed from its moorings at Terara by this 1870 flood. It was carried 200 yards and was left stranded 75 yards inland. It demolished at least one home in its path. These disasters and the loss of life (see April 24th) finally convinced the people to start building in Nowra.

APRIL 11 1845 : Mrs Berry, sister of Edward Wollstonecraft, died childless.

SEPTEMBER 15 1856 : Government Surveyor George Legge was drowned while crossing the Shoalhaven River on horseback. Nearby island was named Legge’s Island in his honour. However some locals claim it was called “Leg Over Island” because of some of the antics of people who attended annual picnics on the shore, just opposite.

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