This is an extract from Kiama Through The Years by Doug Johnston written in 1973.   

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The Early Settlers

In 1797 George Bass sheltered his whaleboat in Kiama harbour area while on a voyage of coastal exploration. He noted in his diary that he had found the Blowhole, calling it "a deep ragged hole and on one side of it the sea washed in through a subterraneous passage with a most tremendous noise".

Aborigines lived in the area at this time and had a good life. fishing from canoes and collecting shellfish along the coastline. They also ate wallaby, the young white shoots of the cabbage palm and wild fruit. The remains of many kitchen middens can still be found in the area. It is thought that the meaning of the word Kiama is derived from the local aboriginal word for "good fishing ground".

The first white settlers were those men who came to cut and ship out cedar. The countryside at that time, in the early 1820's, was a sub-tropical jungle with cabbage palms, figs, gums, cedar trees, climbing vines and much heavy undergrowth. Often they worked for agents in Sydney. The trees were felled by two men and loaded onto sailing vessels and shipped to Sydney.

The cedar cutters and occasional stockmen lived in primitive huts. The bush tracks were poorly defined and a pocket compass was necessary to find the way about. The open land in the late twenties was devoted to beef cattle, although some settlers carried on a small amount of farming. Many of the cedar cutters were wild men and spent all their money on liquor.

In 1831 a detachment of troops arrived to maintain law and order and barracks were erected where the Methodist Church now stands.

In 1832 David Smith, who first arrived cedar cutting in 1821, received a grant of half an acre of land at the south-west corner of Bong Bong and Manning Streets on which he built the first permanent house in Kiama. The first hotel in town was opened at Smith's home in 1837 and was called the Gum Tree Inn. Meanwhile, some large land grants were taken up in the Kiama district and these included :

EUREKA. This property was situated just south of the Minnamurra River and overlooking the ocean. It was promised to John Cowell in 1825 and later bought by Captain Charles who built a little school in the estate. Later, in the 1850's, he went to Scotland and supervised the construction of the paddle steamer S.S. Kiama and brought her to Australia under sail, stowing the paddle boxes as cargo. He became an alderman and M.L.A.

 RIVERSDALE. Situated just west of Kiama town, it was acquired in 1830 by James Robb who, amongst his many pursuits, established an orchard and a vineyard on his property. In 1884 the Pioneer Butter Factory was established here.

 BARROUL. Originally promised to Andrew Byne, it was bought in 1827 by Rev. Thomas Kendall. It was immediately to the south of Kiama townsite. Kendall's son Thomas inherited it in 1833 when his father was drowned off Jervis Bay when the cutter Brisbane sank. Thomas Kendall jnr. became a J.P. and alderman. Later the land was divided into a number of dairy farms. Henry Kendall, the poet, was a relative of this family and worked for a time as a shop assistant at Jamberoo.

BONAIRA. Situated between Barroul and Mt. Pleasant it was promised to Captain W. Farmer in 1825. He ran cattle and then sold to William Manning. It, too, was cleared and divided into dairy farms.

OMEGA RETREAT. This property extended south of Mt. Pleasant and was granted to James Gray in 1825 who later became a J.P. and well known identity. In 1901 it was subdivided and sold.

ALNE BANK. Situated in the area known today as Rose Valley, it was granted to Michael Hindmarsh in 1827. He was the first real resident of Gerringong and spent most of the first ten years cedar cutting, shipp- ing the cedar out of Gerringong Boat Harbour. In the thirties he ex- perimented growing tobacco, but it was not a success. later bL, became a J.Fl. and in 1851 built a fine stone house which still stands today.

RENFREW PARK. This property was granted to William Smith in 1821. In 1835 it was purchased by Robert Miller for five shillings per acre and, being just west of Werri Beach, it was mostly swamp. However, Robert Miller was an industrious man and he drained and cleared the land.

SARAH'S VALLEY. This grant in Jamberoo valley was secured by Michael Hyam. He established a tannery and bootmakers and, in 1837, a hotel known as the Harp Inn. In the early 1840's the land was sold to Robert Owen and the private village of Jamberoo was laid out there, the remainder being subdivided into small dairy farms.

WOODSTOCK. John Ritchie received a grant just north of Jamberoo Village and on it a timber and flour mill was erected in 1838. Woodstock mill was a two storied building and was the largest in lllawarra. Initially water power was used and later steam. Associate endeavours included a biscuit factory, a piggery and a bacon factory. However, the complex was not profitable and the mills were closed down in 1860.

MINNAMURRA. Dr. Menzies bought land in Jamberoo valley in 1839 and built Minnamurra House there soon after. He combined farming with his medical practice. He became a J.P. and presided at the first Magistrate court in Kiama.

WAUGHOPE and TERRAGONG make up land originally granted to Malcolm Campbell. In 1858 John Marks built Terragong House and this fine home still stands today. David Waugh bought Waughope in 1840. He was a prominent figure and became J.P. and was the first chairman of Klama Steam Navigation Company.

Other grants in the Jamberoo valley included those to Thomas Faster ("Curramore"), William Davis and John Cullen.


In 1826 a site was reserved for the proposed townsite of Kiama but it was not until 1839 that the streets were surveyed and 1840 that the first allotments were sold. In 1841 the first Post Office opened, the mail being carried on horseback. 1842 saw the first magistrate court in town. In 1848 there were eighteen permanent houses, two inns (Gum Tree Inn and Fitzroy Inn), two stores, a wooden church (the first Church of England) and a jetty at the bay. At this time one 250 acre farm in the district employed seventy people.

Between 1844 and 1849 a toll bar operated on the Klama-Jamberoo road near where it crosses Spring Creek. The roads in the area were very poor and mostly wore no more that bush tracks. At one stage local landowners got together and had much of the road to Jamberoo built.

The most notable landmark of the time was the fig tree at the bay where the people met when the ships came in with supplies. It was situated just above what is now known as Black Beach. This fig died in the 1960's but many still grow in the district and act as a reminder of this well known, town feature.

In 1856 the population of Kiama township was 495.

The water supply for people in those early days was by bucket from the creek which runs parallel and just to the north of Terralong Street. In 1867 a well was dug there and in 1884 a town pump installed. It was not until 1900 that a water reticulation scheme was in operation.


From the earliest days Kiama was served by sailing vessels which anchored in the bay where the harbour is today. The ships came in with supplies and took away goods such as butter, pigs, calves, poultry, wheat, barley, potatoes, ale and timber. All the, farmers came, to town when a ship came in and these were the market days. Improvements were made in 1848 when mooring chains were laid and a year later a new jetty and shed were built.
In 1853 the Kiama Steam Navigation Company was formed and two years later the company's padd
le wheeler "Kiama" began regular journeys to Sydney. From this time onwards Kiama was served by a steamer twice a week although bad weather often held up the service.
In 1858 Kiama Steam Navigation Company merged with Shoalhaven Steam Navigation Co. and the General Steam Navigation Co. (of Woll- ongong) to form lllawarra Steam Navigation Company.

Throughout the years many people had been urging that a permanent harbour basin be built at Kiama and eventually construction began in 1871. It was officially opened in 1876. During these early years it was quite dangerous for ships travelling up and down the coast when the weather was bad and there were many shipwrecks. The Rangoon was wrecked on Stack Island at Minnamurra, the crew of ten being saved by some quick thinking by Captain Charles who lived nearby. Thirteen years later, in 1883, the Nile went down at the Klama harbour entrance. It went onto the rocks and the efforts of many townspeople who pulled tug-of-war style on ropes to get her free failed, and she eventually sank.
In 1887 shipping became safer when the lighthouse at Blowhole Point commenced operations. It was lit by acetylene gas, but in May, 1969 it was converted to electricity to give a greatly increased range.

In the 1830's convicts were used as labour on clearing, farming and road building work but by the 1840's this practice had been discontinued and much of the land clearing was carried out under a lease system. Settlers were let about 20 acres for five years rent free from the large estates and given free food for the first five months. These people lived in small huts.

There was much mixed farming at this time. The steep hill to the north of Terralong street was covered with wheat (James Coiley's "Hill Farm"). Also maize, vegetables, grapes, tobacco, sugar cane and hops were grown in the area at different times. However, by the 1850's most farmers were turning to daiffing. There were three flour mills in the district, at Bush Bank, Woodstock and the Kiama Steam Flour Mill in Terralong Street.
In 1849 the first Agricultural Show was held in the brewery behind Fitzroy Inn.


The Kiama district was the birthplace of dairying in Australia. By 1850 a local breed of dairy cattle had begun and through cross breeding this eventually became known as the Australian lllawarra Shorthorn Durham breed.

Because of the lack of refrigeration it was very difficult shipping dairy products to Sydney but from quite early on butter was sent in special barrels. Later, in 1881, the first cheese factory in the area opened at Jerrara in the Jamberoo valley and from this time cheese joined the exports. Three years later the Pioneer Butter Factory opened near Spring Creek. It was the first truly co-operative butter factory in Australia, the capital coming wholly from local farmers.
The Dairy   Farmers Co-operative Milk Company was formed in 1900 to market    milk in Sydney. It was formed at meetings at Albion Park and Kiama and was patronised by dairy farmers from Nowra to Dapto. This company continues today.


The year 1870 marked the commencement of the blue metal industry in the Kiama district. Most of the blue metal was shipped or railed to Sydney for use in building tram lines, roads and railway lines. Various areas were quarried over the years including Pike's Hill at the western end of Terralong Street, Minnamurra, Bombo headland and other areas near Bombo. In 1882 a jetty was built in. the bay known as the Boneyard north of Bombo and in 1883 four hundred tons a day were being shipped out of Kiama harbour by both sail and steam vessels. Special loading facilities were in operation at Kiama harbour and the blue metal was carried to the harbour by horse drawn carts. However, by 1893 the railway line from Sydney to Kiama was completed and from this date much of the metal was taken to Sydney by train.

In 1913 tramway lines were laid in Terralang and Manning Streets and steam trams were used to carry the@ blue metal from the quarries to the harbour and railway siding. The quarrying of blue metal is still carried out at the railway quarry and the new Boral quarry to the west of Bombo.


The municipality of Klama was proclaimed in 1859. It included the towns of Gerringong and Jamberoo and at the first election three councilors were ercted from each ward, the wards being Kiama, Gerringong and Jamberoo. In 1861 the population of the municipality was 4071 of which 741 lived in Kiama town. A prominent personality of the time was James Somerville who was town clerk from 1867 to 1891. These were turbulent days and the districts of Gerringong and Jamberoo split from Kiama to create their own municipalities in 1871 and 1890 respectively. In 1890, during feuding at a council meeting, a spectator handed the mayor a present in a box. When it was opened he found a pair of boxing gloves! The populations at this time were Kiama 2300, Gerringong 1500 and Jamberoo 2200.

Friendship returned in 1954 when the three councils amalgamated to form Kiama Municipal Council which then had a population of 5200 made up from Kiama 2400, Gerringong 1000 and Jamberoo 900. In 1971 Census figures gave Kiama town a population of 4700 and the municipality 6700.

Services provided included a gas supply in 1884 when the streets were lit by gas lamps, a water reticulation scheme in 1900 and an electricity supply in 1925.


Kiama's first newspaper, the "Kiama Examiner" began publication in 1858 and cost 6 pence a copy. Five years later it went out of business and in 1863 Joseph Weston commenced publication of the "Kiama Independent" which is still published today and remains in the ownership of the Weston family. In 1887 the Independent carried a notice "printed by steam". This was the beginning of the era of mechanical printing.

During the life of the Independent several other local newspapers made appearances but none are left today.


A feature unique in New South Wales was begun in 1857 when Thomas Newing arrived in the district. He, built dry stone, fences which may still be seen today on the hillsides around Kiama. His craft required considerable knowledge as the placement of stones was critical for the fence to remain intact over a period of time,. The stones were gathered from the nearby countryside and hauled to the fence where Newing was working. Newing died in 1927, aged ninety two.


Kiama Cricket Club was formed in 1858 but it was not until the 1880's that football was introduced. Horse racing began at Bombo beach in 1862 and continued at Minnamurra in 1877 when hurdle and foot races were added to the program. Participants included the local aborigines Mickey and Commodore. Mickey was a well known identity and years later was given a plaque inscribed "Mickey Johnson, King".

The first bicycles to be ridden in town came in the 1890's and in 1892 tennis began at courts in the Blowhole Point excavation. 1896 saw a rifle range opened on Kendall's property and in 1903 golf commenced oh a course at Chaprnans Point.


The first baths were built in 1874 near the school flat. Segregation by sex was the order of the day and men and women bathed at different times of the day. However, in 1888, new baths for men only were built and are now known as the   'rock pool', situated east of the harbour.

Swimming in the surf was illegal before 1908. John Holbrock found out the hard way when he was fined ten@ shillings for swimming at Surf beach in 1895. The Kiama   Surf Club was formed in 1912.