History Mysteries – seeking your help

Corambirra Point, with Gallows Beach on the right, 1956-1960
www.picturecoffsharbour.org; part of mus07-11104
Photographer: Desmond Eeley

The first in an occasional series.

Gallows Beach
Do you know how Gallows Beach, between Corambirra Point and Boambee Beach, earned its name? Did the name come from a surfer tradition or something a little more sinister? Surfing World may have featured it in the 1960s. If you have copies of this  magazine from the 1960s with stories of our Coffs Coast beaches, the Regional Museum would love to see them.

From Beaches of the New South Wales Coast, Australian Beach Safety and Management Program p.107 https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/5450254

the old Courthouse & Police Station building at 215 Harbour Drive
The Council’s history team is also seeking reminiscences, photos and any other documented information about the old combined Police Station and Courthouse building, (now the home of the Regional Museum). They were in operation at 215 Harbour Drive from 1907-1930. It would be fascinating to hear from descendants of the police families who lived at the site, as well as accounts from the court officials.

Coffs Harbour Courthouse and Police Station, Coffs Harbour, N.S.W., circa 1925 
www.picturecoffsharbour.org; mus07-857
Photographer: Peter Jensen

In the 1920s, there was a two-storey house in central Coffs Harbour referred to as Colderbrea. It had tiled fireplaces, beautiful timberwork and fruit trees. It was a rental property during the early part of the 1920s. Does anyone have any memories or photographs to share?

the Keilawarra porthole
In the Regional Museum’s extensive maritime history collection, there is a porthole encased in its original timber. It’s believed to be from the wreck of the 780-ton Keilawarra which went down in 1886 near North Solitary Island with the loss of 41 lives after colliding with the smaller, southbound steamer, the Helen Nicholl. Do you have any information on this tragic shipwreck?

SS Keilawarra  https://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?51023

Please contact us via museum@chcc.nsw.gov.au if you have further information.

A very Coffs Coast Christmas

Smallman, Steve & Dunn, Robert, (illustrator.) & Pyke, Jerry, (illustrator.) (2014). Santa is coming to New South Wales. South Melbourne, Vic Lake Press

Throughout 2017, the History Services unit of the Library, Gallery & Museum team has aimed to share our local heritage online for easier access.
From Sawtell and Bonville, to Red Rock and Woolgoolga and all the places in between, here are some of the stories we issued this year, with considerable assistance from our Museum and Library Volunteers, and the community.

  • John KorffDiscoverer of Coffs Harbour compiled by Marie Davey, available from Coffs Harbour Libraries and for sale at the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum;
  • Georges Gold, a book about gold mining on the Orara goldfields of eastern Dorrigo and the gold mining pioneers, in a new edition freely available online or in print;
  • the 1893 shipwreck of the Buster at Woolgoolga – a Trove list of resources describing how the event unfolded;
  • Bonville Creek Station to sunny Sawtell, edited by Arlene Hope and Merv Pitman, explaining the origins of the seaside town;
  • The wicked boy: the mystery of a Victorian child murderer by Kate Summerscale, available for borrowing from Coffs Harbour Libraries. The author was interviewed by the ABC where she explained how a young English boy grew up in Nana Glen;
  • A Compendium of Pioneers of the Local Government Area 1880-1903, compiled from several extant lists by Geoff Watts;
  • STILL National Still Life Award, the Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery’s new national art prize with accompanying catalogue;
  • several issues of the newly launched newsletters of the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum and the Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery, edited by Kylie Castor.


Pioneer Park revisited

Duke St Pioneer Park 20171129 - 29Nov2017
The new Pioneer Park beside the old Museum site on Harbour Drive, November 2017

History to 2016
In July 2016, the Duke Street extension was opened as the replacement to Pioneer Park, a green space between Harbour Drive and Duke Street.
The space was named “Pioneer Park” by the Coffs Harbour and District Historical Museum in February 1996, and the Museum (which was then not funded by the Council) also paid for the park’s furniture. The Museum deemed it the only park “in Coffs Harbour named in memory of the Pioneers of this wonderful part of the world” and its decision was supported by the City Council, which maintained the space well.

Duke St Pioneer Park Letter - 23 Feb 1996
1996 Letter from the Coffs Harbour & District Historical Museum
Duke St Truncated Old Pioneer Park 28 June 2016 Advocate
coffscoastadvocate.com.au/news/road-through-pioneer-park-fast-tracked/3052659/, 28 June 2016

In 2017
To reflect the naming of the space as Pioneer Park, the Coffs Harbour City Council decided to honour the pioneers who had resided or worked nearby: Peter Moller, the first selector; squatter John Carrall, after whom the flooding creek is named; Miss Ida Archibald, the first teacher; and Robert Bray, first grocer.
Their stories are told in six panels, placed along the footpath beside the street extension. The panels are made from core ten steel and were supplied by Armsign. The brick pavers were original pavers from the city centre, removed when Gordon Street was developed. The information on the panels was compiled with input from staff and volunteers the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum.
A 1911 map shows this space was always designated to be a through street, although both ends are situated on top of Carrall’s Creek.

1911 map part
Coffs Harbour : alternative schemes submitted by Mr T. W. Keele, M. Inst. C. E., for the establishment of a port at Coff’s Harbour / Royal Commission on Railway Decentralisation;    MAP G8971.P3 1911; http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-234153490

Trees were originally planted by Mrs R R Macdonald, wife of the doctor, for the enjoyment of her family which lived next to the park, and the public [cf., Coffs Local History – Remember When, 13 March 2016].

Trees in the new Park providing shade include Buckinghamia celcissima (Ivory curl flower), Syzygium australis ‘resilience’ (Bush cherry), and Tristaniopsis luarina ‘luscious’ (Kanuka gum), replacing eucalyptus trees.

The original Pioneer Park bench seating and sign, made from tallowwood, can still be enjoyed in the garden at the site of the recent Coffs Harbour Regional Museum, a short walk away at 215A Harbour Drive.

Peter Moller et al are described in the Compendium of Pioneers of Coffs Harbour Local Government Area 1880 – 1903.
Lead photograph: Raymond Mather Photography, 29 November 2017. Left to right: Debbie Campbell, Local Studies & Digitisation Librarian; Geoff Watts, volunteer researcher; Terrie Beckhouse, LMG Cultural Collections Officer; and Cath Fogarty, Cultural Development, Gallery & History Services Coordinator. Not present: Andrea Vallance, Landscape Designer, Coffs Harbour City Council.

Illuminating a community leader

HOSCHKE Amandus Print_MG_4538-cropped
Amandus Hoschke’s 1909 illuminated address

One of the most beautiful items donated to the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum recently was an illuminated address presented to Orara Valley resident Amandus Hoschke in 1909. The address features his portrait, artistic flora and birdlife, tinted photographs of the main street of Coramba and the Solitary Islands, with stylised signatures of local neighbours. More than 100 years later, it remains in perfect condition.

Dear Sir, On the eve of your departure on a well earned holiday trip to Germany, your many friends in the Orara, Bucca Creek and Coffs Harbour Districts are desirous of showing some slight recognition of the excellent services you have at all times rendered for the progress and welfare of the community generally. 

Amandus and his wife Mary Ann were original pioneers to Upper Orara in 1886, and they made a significant contribution to the development of the wider community. He had assumed the Presidency of the local Progress Association a year after arrival, and set about expanding local industry and transport infrastructure.

Upper Orara and West Branch Progress Association. (1888, August 7). Clarence and Richmond Examiner and New England Advertiser (Grafton, NSW : 1859 – 1889), p. 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article62095069

Illuminated addresses were created to mark a special occasion for a person who transformed community life. It was not unusual for this gesture to be given in farewell; but less commonly, this time it was given to someone expected to return from their journey abroad. The level of confidence in this outcome was evidenced by Mrs Hoschke remaining at home with the family.

The proposal to give one of the pioneers of the district, Mr. A. Hoschke, sen.. of Upper Orara, a send-off, prior to his departure for Germany, meets with general support here, and Coff’s Harbour will be well represented on the occasion.

[EASTERN DORRIGO. (1909, April 20). Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1889 – 1915), p. 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article61539649]

A send-off, in the form of a well represented smoke concert, was tendered to Mr. A. Hoschke. sen., of Upper Orara, on Monday evening last, on the eve of his departure for Germany.
Messrs. McLean, Smith, Martin, MacNamara, Gale, Pritzler and Cochrane also spoke, the latter gentleman presenting Mr. Hoschke with a beautiful illuminated address in album form, showing various photographs of the district, and one of the recipient.
Mr. Sherwood, in proposing the health of the guest of the evening, referred to Mr. Hoschke’s early pioneering experiences, and showed the great pluck and upright honesty of practically a young man in the little settled district of the Orara. As one who was foremost in everything that went for the best progress of the district, and one who had worked hard for the attainment of such. Mr. Hoschke was a citizen to be proud of. It afforded him the greatest pleasure to wish him bon voyage on his well earned holiday trip to his native country.
In replying, Mr. Hoschke said that it was one of the proudest moments of his life to think that he was held in such esteem by his many friends, as has been evidenced within the last few days and at the gathering that evening.

[SEND OFF AT CORAMBA (1909, May 13). Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1889 – 1915), p. 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article61541011]

HOSCHKE Amandus Web Email _MG_4529-_preview-cropped
On 28 October 1909, Mr Hoschke returned from the journey to his homeland:

Mr. Hoschke arrived home on Thursday, and is looking the better of his trip to Germany. His many friends are pleased to welcome him back to the district.

[UPPER ORARA. (1909, November 2). Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1889 – 1915), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article61503503]

Amandus Hoschke died in 1928. His obituary was generous: “He possessed all the qualifications for a pioneer, being hard working, industrious and intelligent above the ordinary. By dint of hard work, together with his family, he gained a competence, and had been living in retirement for some years. He was greatly respected by all who knew him and the settlers who came after him speak in the highest manner of the helping hand that he was always willing to extend to any one in need of assistance, although at times hard pressed himself. In the passing of Mr. Hoschke the district loses one of its grand old men.”

[Daily Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1915 – 1954), p.4.  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article195467274]

The Hoschke illuminated address is able to be viewed at the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum.

CHRM HOSCHKE Family 20171011 Web Email_MG_1681-
l to r: Cath Fogarty, Cultural Development, Gallery & History Services Coordinator; Brothers Ian, Fred and Doug Hoschke, with a portrait of their great-grandmother Mary Ann Hoschke nee Drew (1847-1923) in the oval frame on the wall behind them [11 October 2017]

  • Illuminated address and donation photographs: Raymond Mather Photography
  • The family story is told in Settlers at Orara – the Hoschke Family in Australia by Ian Hoschke, 2014, which is available at both the Museum and the City Library, see http://bit.ly/2hNLDBo


Jetty Village and Top Town – a town divided?

Coffs Harbour Progress Association was formed in 1891. [1] From 1905 to 1909 it met alternately at Top Town and Jetty Village [2], and was “the acknowledged official representative of the township in Government matters”. [3] Membership of the Progress Association (presumably) was open to anyone.
With the 1905 “rise of Coffs Harbour”, an elitism of sorts raised its head. A “Coffs Harbour Ratepayers’ Association” was formed, membership of which was confined to ratepayers (in other words, property-owners). [4]  The Ratepayers’ Association met monthly at Top Town.
On 12 February 1907, the Coffs Harbour Advocate’s editor accused this new organisation of trying to undermine (and ultimately “disintegrate”) the Progress Association. [5] In mid 1909 a conference was attempted between the two associations which revealed mutual mistrust. [6]
About this time, a Coffs Harbour Jetty Progress Association comes on the scene. [7] Its meetings over the next year are reported under the banner “The People’s Parliament”, fairly obviously a jibe against the more exclusive Ratepayers’ Association. The issues to be discussed were also ironic, echoing complaints in 2017 about weather reporting: “The Commonwealth Meteorologist [does] not favor Coff’s Harbor Jetty being established [as] a weather reporting station, as if the desired concession were granted it would be necessary to extend it to dozens of other places. He pointed out that for scientific purposes the daily bulletins contained that was required.
In May 1911, Dr Cook was president of the “combined Ratepayers’ and Jetty Progress Associations”. [8] In November 1911, a meeting was called to discuss the question of whether to revive the now ‘defunct” Progress and Ratepayers’ Associations, or to establish a Chamber of Commerce instead. The latter option was chosen [9], and the Chamber of Commerce was operating by December 1911. [10]
The Chamber of Commerce would have looked very like the Ratepayers’ Association. A win for the Top Town elitists against the Jetty Village egalitarians?
In 1941, NSW Shire elections were opened up to all residents of a district. Before then, you needed to be a ratepayer (property-owner) to vote at Shire elections. [11,12]  After 1941 Shire Councillors became the local Progress Association. Between 1912 and 1941 in Coffs Harbour, the People’s Parliament went underground.
With thanks to volunteer Geoff Watts for research.
Image: Aerial View from Top Town to the Jetty, Allen Hogbin, 1951-52. Picture Coffs Harbour mus07-11313

  1. TUESDAY FEBRUARY 12, 1907. (1907, February 12). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187604450
  2. PROGRESS ASSOCIATION. (1907, February 12). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187604466
  3. ibid.
  4. RATEPAYERS’ ASSOCIATION. (1908, March 17). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189628293
  5. TUESDAY FEBRUARY 12, 1907. (1907, February 12). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187604450
  6. THAT CONFERENCE. (1909, June 18). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189620522
  7. The People’s Parliament. (1909, December 17). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189621900
  8. The Public Dinner. (1911, May 19). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189625289
  9. ibid.
  10. Continuous Telephonic Service. (1911, December 8). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 2. from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189626503
  11. Hearfield and B. Dollery, “Representative Democracy in Australian Local Government”, Commonwealth Journal of Local Governance, Issue 2: January 2009, p.69 and http://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/journals/index.php/cjlg/article/view/1008/1012.
  12. Advertising (1906, January 15). The Grafton Argus and Clarence River General Advertiser (NSW : 1874 – 1875; 1879 – 1882; 1888; 1892; 1899 – 1922), p. 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article234816505 (“Election of Aldermen & Auditors”)

From Hardwoods to Soft Cottons

By guest writer Jo Besley, Curator, Coffs Harbour Regional Museum & Regional Gallery
The new exhibition at Coffs Harbour Regional Museum features tools of the timber trade and hand-crafted, household textiles from the museum’s collection to recall the earliest days of settlement in the district.
Timber was the Coffs Coast’s first colonial industry. Timber-getters arrived here from the 1860s, seeking cedar – “red gold” – a tree of the mahogany family highly prized for its rich red appearance, warm grain and workability. It grew plentifully in the subtropical rainforests of New South Wales and from the 1820s cedar-getters moved up and down the coast, hauling it out of remote gullies, making rafts of logs and floating them to the coast. It was an opportunistic pursuit requiring little more than an axe, some bullocks and kit – and a great deal of muscle. Fortunes could be made if the conditions were right but given the remoteness of the Coffs Coast from major settlements, it was a tough way to make a living.

mus07-2193_bullock team on jetty becah 1908
Bullock team on Jetty Beach 1908 Picture Coffs Harbour mus07-2193

There were no roads – just rough bush tracks and the ocean beach – and the only communication was via ships that stopped at river heads to collect the cedar, bringing supplies with them. Many of the cedar-getters were itinerant single men, moving from district to district, denuding the forest of its riches. Others came with their families looking for a place to settle. A common pattern was for a selector to arrive first as a timber-getter; then after they’d cleared the land they would begin farming. Women took part in these activities too, planting crops and tending gardens, while also creating homes with whatever materials were at hand or that could occasionally be bought. Clothing and domestic items were usually handmade and repaired constantly to last as long as possible.
In the 19th century, domestic sewing was strongly associated with femininity and was a primary duty for women in maintaining their family’s welfare, as well as a recreational pursuit for many. Class was a factor, with working class women doing “plain needlework” and utilitarian tasks, while middle and upper class women spent their time on fine embroidery and fancywork. These types of households were rare in Coffs Harbour; most women in the early days were living in tents or rudimentary huts, with few creature comforts.
mus07-0959_Dorothy Black 8 mths 1918
Dorothy Black, eight months old in 1918 Picture Coffs Harbour mus07-0959

Clothing supplies were sparse and took months to arrive. The few local stores stocked just basic fabrics such as cottons, calico and canvas, so women depended on hawkers who came by intermittently to buy haberdashery and drapery. The exquisite hand-sewn and detailed items on display show the care that women took to clothe their families and furnish their homes, even in the most difficult of circumstances.
From Hardwoods to Soft Cottons is on at the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum, corner of Harbour Drive & North Street 24 August – 21 October 2017. CHRM booklet Sawmills, Tramways & Jetties is also available from there. SawmillsTramwaysJettiesCut

A supercentennial trove of compelling stories

On page 31 of the Wednesday 12 July 2017 issue of the Coffs Coast Advocate, its 110th birthday* was announced. What is astounding to note is that it is still possible to read the newspaper in full from 1907 to now. To do so requires an understanding of where to find it.
In 1907, the Coffs Coast Advocate began with a slightly different title – The Coff’s Harbour Advocate and Dorrigo, Orara, Coramba, Bucca Bucca, Woolgoolga, Glenreagh and Lower Clarence Advertizer.  The issues of the paper between 1907 and 1942 are available for reading or searching on the National Library of Australia’s discovery platform, Trove.

(1907, February 12). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page21430190

There was a publication break during the Second World War, from May 1942 until October 1946, but the geographical coverage of the Coffs Coast remained the same when it resumed.
(1942, April 24). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page21404236

(1946, October 11). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page21405089

(1954, December 31). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page21546986

However it is still possible to explore subsequent issues, copied for reading and preservation onto microfilm. They are accessible at the Harry Bailey Memorial Library in Coffs Harbour. The Library continues add microfilm to its local history collection, and for the digital years this still provides an important backup copy for the newspaper on the Advocate’s own website.
We are fortunate that, by virtue of various tranches of government and other sponsored funding, the newspaper is freely available to read in all of these forms – online, on microfilm and through free delivery to local households since 1985. Using these mechanisms we can ensure that more recent editions are not lost, so that we can browse through the trove of compelling stories and celebrate the paper’s next major anniversary.
* A supercentenarian is acknowledged as the result of surpassing a 110th birthday event.

When did Coffs drop its apostrophe?

The name Coffs Harbour has passed through a few permutations since the location was acknowledged in 1847. Originally named after John Korff, the location’s name was changed to Coff’s Harbor by surveyors in 1861. But the apostrophe lingered, and in response to a recent enquiry, the Library-Museum team at Coffs Harbour City Council looked into the transition.
The quintessential barometer of small-town life, the daily newspaper, was a leader in this transition. The Coff’s Harbour and Dorrigo Advocate commenced printing in 1907 and dropped the apostrophe from the text of the newspaper in 1914. The abbreviation “Coffs”, used in article headings and elsewhere, didn’t look right when written as “Coff’s”.
The Guide Book to Coffs Harbor and District, published by the Chamber of Commerce in 1926, uses the apostrophe throughout except, ironically, in its title:

Read it here

“Next issue Sept. 16. Office burnt down”

A fire at the Advocate’s premises on 3 August, 1930 resulted in a new printing press and a new masthead. The masthead changed from “Coff’s Harbour” to “Coffs Harbour” on 16 September, 1930.
“Owing to office being burnt down, the previous issue was August 1, 1930.”

In 1950, in response to a letter from a member of the public How is Coffs Harbour spelled? the editor wrote
Excerpt from CORRECT SPELLING OF COFFS HARBOUR (1950, April 21). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187770277

The New South Wales Government Gazette of 17 May, 1968 announced that the Geographical Names Board had dropped the apostrophe from “Coffs Harbour” from both the town name and the harbour name.  However some Government Gazette notices continued using “Coff’s Harbour” until 1972.
From Coff’s to Coffs

Of particular note is the fact that Coffs Harbour Shire Council notices published in the Government Gazette continued to use “Coff’s Harbour” until 1972.

While the apostrophe was not completely put to rest until 1972, it was dropped from common usage in 1914.
With thanks to volunteer researcher Geoffrey Watts for his investigation into this matter. 


In 2014, the Coffs Harbour City Libraries celebrated their 50th anniversary of service to the Coffs community with a blog called 50 years 50 stories. Many of those stories touch on the early days of the region’s development, sharing the quirky – how one branch library came to be in a cell block lock-up; the uncensored; and the climactic.
This blog will extend that auspicious beginning – here is the place to learn about and respond to our local heritage in the form of events, objects, people and locations from the Coffs Coast region stored away in our cultural agencies. How do we define that region? It reaches north to Red Rock, south to Yellow Rock and west to Tallawudjah Creek. In the east are the Solitary Islands.
This is the record of our heritage.