Formation of the Shellharbour Co-operative Steam Navigation Company in 1866 provided liberation for local farmers who had grown tired of the region's steam traffic bypassing the Shellharbour port.
Having taken fortune into their own hands, the company then moved to acquire a boat.
The sailing schooner Dairymaid was built by a man named Woods at Jervis Bay and arrived at Shellharbour on its first trip in October 1867.
It measured 85 feet (25 metres) in length and was placed in the command of Captain A Buchanan.
The vessel operated alongside the Peterborough Lass and Agenoria, transporting pigs, calves and butter to Sydney in a trip taking about 60 hours. The profits of the Dairymaid paid for the vessel within five years.
In 1875, the old steam company was replaced by the Shellharbour Steam Navigation Company. In line with the development, the Dairymaid was sold and a decision made by the shareholders to build a new steam vessel.
The steamer, later to also be named the Dairymaid, was specifically adapted for the trade of the port, measuring 96 feet (29 metres) long and including 30-horsepower engines, and accommodation for six passengers.
The Mercury reported that the £3766 vessel arrived on April 8, 1876, to much fanfare, with a dinner held for 500 people "under a large awning erected on the beach, near the well-known fig trees … The jetty had a crowd of promenaders and really the scene reminded one of the gay appearance of an English watering place".
The steamer, which had its trade extended to include Gerringong, was not long in service when, in July 1877, it was washed ashore at Shellharbour during a storm. Described by the Mercury as being in a critical and disabled position, she became lodged on a ballast heap on the north side of the harbour, and was ultimately refloated with the aid of a bullock team and pulleys.
On October 30 the following year, ill-fate again hit when the Dairymaid struck a reef at Woniora Point, at Bulli.
The ship, which suffered a hole in the keel, became filled with water.
She was fixed and began trading six weeks later.
Meantime, harbour works improved trade at Shellharbour, with a plant making huge concrete blocks for a breakwater, which was finished in 1879.
A new steamer, the Peterborough, was purchased in August 1886, when the decision was made to sell the Dairymaid.
Picture: The schooner Dairymaid at Shellharbour in about 1870. The vessel proved a boon to the Shellharbour shipping industry. CREDIT: From the collections of the Wollongong City Library and the Illawarra Historical Society
To find information on ships and passenger records, go to the National Library of Australia.