Settlers found fertile soil in valley

Orchards in the Cordeaux River valley prospered in the 1800s and the first half of the 20th century. They regularly entered the Wollongong Show. Edward Rees is pictured third from the left.

Orchards in the Cordeaux River valley prospered in the 1800s and the first half of the 20th century. They regularly entered the Wollongong Show. Edward Rees is pictured third from the left.

John Leo McNamara wrote in his book Life at Cordeaux River, "When all traces of human intrusion have disappeared from the valley, it will remain akin to 'Paradise'."

The early settlers of the Cordeaux River valley, finding rich red volcanic soil plus an abundance of water supplied from the Cordeaux River, realised the valley was an ideal spot for cultivation and to settle and raise families.

It has been reported that Robert Fishlock was the first settler.

In the 1850s Mr Jevron, a mineralogist, visited the area to assess the minerals the settlers discovered.

Before Mr Jevron's visit, the Morans and Fishlocks had settled the valley and clearing and cultivation of apple orchards as well as dairy farms were being established.

It was unusual to see a property advertised for sale in the valley although in December 1850 a 50 acre property was placed on the market. It was advertised as a four-room slab cottage with seven acres fenced, cropped with wheat, 15 acres with timber felled and a small dairy.

In September 1856, a road to be constructed to Cordeaux River was gazetted:

"The road commences immediately after crossing the Fig Tree bridge going towards Dapto, then through M Ryan's land onto Rixon's and down the side of the avenue along the flat below Mrs McGroory's house until it reaches the waterfall, round which it winds along the margin of the creek, which it crosses near the hut where W Gregory now lives, and along the flat until it reaches Mr Gordon's ground; just after entering it the road crosses the creek three times then rises over a jutting point and ascends the higher ground belonging to Mr Gordon, from there heading towards the mountain through Lehaney's and James' (now Stafford) land down to the bridge over the blind creek at Stafford's 30 acres after which passing through this ground it enters an uncultivated forest running in the direction of American Creek some rods from its margin, until the road crosses it at some elevation above the flats, winding round the ranges until it reaches the Cordeaux.

"This road was first surveyed by Mr Shone some five years ago, and was proclaimed, but for the satisfaction of the public and parties interested therein a large tracing is now placed within their reach ...

"The whole of the road which it passes, as far as Stafford's on the American Creek, is cultivated or enclosed ground and in some places a fence marks the line, but from Stafford's to the Cordeaux, it is in a state of nature excepting those portions sold near the river".

It was in August 1858 that the NSW Legislative Assembly voted £400 for the formation of the road.

In February 1861, William Stafford issued Central Illawarra Municipal Council a certificate notifying of the completion of the road by Benjamin Rixon.

Within months the road was subject to damage from flooding.

A letter from William Stafford was read at the May Council meeting stating that 21 men and a bullock team were engaged in repairing the road.

The folk who purchased land and settled to live in the Cordeaux River Valley never had it easy regarding travelling on the road. Even now, the road from the Mt Kembla Lookout to the valley is still gravel.

Next week the story continues on the slow decline of the valley and the reason the Cordeaux folk left.

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