This article sets the scene for the part of the family history where Amandus senior and Mary moved to Orara with ten children, the eldest being 15 years old. When reading the following keep in mind that is was written before 1928 so around 100 years ago.


(Written by the late Mr. David Small.)

The late Mr. David Small, who died recently at Upper Orara, where he had resided for many years, was always desirous that the history of the Upper Orara should be written and to that end, he had himself started the task before his sudden end. The manuscript, entitled, “Pioneering Days of the Upper Orara,” was recently given to Mrs. D. Marienne Perring, who, with the permission of his relatives, copied same and forwarded it to us for publication. The following is the text of the interesting document: —


For about ten years previous to 1886 Upper Orara was then known as the Orara Cedar Scrub, comprising many thousands of acres of dense brush, Crown Lands Reserve. Practical bushmen explored these wild brushes and found they contained millions of feet of cedar of best quality. To place this timber on the Sydney market was a huge undertaking, and required the most resourceful and experienced bushman imaginable.

Scrub at Upper Orara, 1907 (01/01/1907 – 31/12/1907), Coffs Collections, accessed 05 Oct 2022,


This unknown brush was penetrated from Grafton end, and the cedar logs of all dimensions were rafted down the Orara to Grafton at flood time, by every opportunity. At that time no road existed from Grafton up the valley of the Orara. However, more explorations followed by cedar getters, namely, Messrs. Frisby, Ellis, Bradley, myself (David Small), and many others, with the result that it was found practicable to open up a wagon track over the coast range to Coff’s Harbor from just below where the Upper Orara public school now stands. These men improved the mountain track by side-cuttings without any assistance from the Government. With a bountiful supply of cedar in every direction, hundreds and thousands of feet were quickly carted to Coff’s Harbor for shipment.


Shipping timber in those days at Coff’s Harbor was vastly different from the appliances of today. For instance, a shipment of logs would be rolled into Coff’s Creek, about a quarter of a mile North of Brierley’s store. The most tiresome undertaking of all this was to wait for the tide, generally at night-time, and raft all this timber to the mouth of Coff’s Creek, when it would be securely bound together by chains and, in calm weather, drawn out over the surf by winch to the ship’s side, and one by one the logs would be eventually placed on board.


The steamers were the only source of the cedar getters’ supplies from Sydney. In the course of time the fertility of the Orara brush became better known and petitions were forwarded to the proper authorities, asking that it would be available for settlement. It eventually proved successful. Accordingly surveyors were instructed. They measured up all the rivers and main creek frontages from Coramba to the sources in areas from 40 to 150 acres. Owing principally to the energy of Mr. E. F. Rudder, late of Coramba, the resources of the Orara scrub were well written up both in the local and Sydney press, so that it was not altogether unknown when, in the year 1886, it was made available to settlement. The whole of this vast area was made available for C.P. [Conditional Purchase] on July 22, 1886, except an odd block which was reserved. Owing to so much writing in the papers, describing the rich brush, it attracted scores of men from all over New South Wales, who came along and inspected it.


How many applications for land do you think were lodged at Grafton Lands Office on that day? There were only eight. They were Messrs. Baker and Parry, of Coramba; the late Mr. Colin Buchanan, of Karangi; Messrs. J. MacLaughlin, J. McLeod, A. Hoschke, C. McFarlane and myself (David Small). If it was available today there should be over 8000 applications for it. Some grownups may be here today who can’t understand why there was not a wild rush to get a home here. Try to imagine, as it was then. Instead of all the clearing on farms and homes from Nana Glen right up the whole valley of the Orara and its tributaries it was then just dense brush from end to end and only a few cedar tracks to follow.


I landed here on August 16, 1886 and we had to cross the Orara eleven times between here and where Coramba township now stands. It was not even thought of then. South Grafton was the nearest town in the north, 52 miles away, and Fernmount on the south, 30 miles distant, and if my memory serves me right there were only two houses on the track between here and South Grafton and Coffs Harbor, well, it was only in name then and there was a rough track to over the mountain. Where Coffs Harbor stands today there was the hotel, a small, but well-kept little place, owned by Mr. Chas. Campbell, who will be long remembered by the early settlers for his many kindness’s to them; and a store about where, the vicarage now stands, conducted by a Mr. Graff, who was most moderate in his charges, although he had to get his goods by steamer to the Bellinger River and then by bullock team to Coffs. The post office was away about two miles to the north of Coff’s Harbor, and was conducted by Mr. Lee senr., of Karangi. The mail was then, run along the coast by a Mr. Casson, of Corindi, by packhorse from South Grafton to Bellingen twice a week. The nearest post office in any other direction was at the old Nana Creek gold mines, which lie about four miles west from Coramba showgrounds. This office was the terminus of a branch mail line from South Grafton up Kangaroo Creek. This may give you some idea of the isolation of the district in those days. The late Mr. Duncan and Mr. Pike, of Coff’s Harbor, were drawing cedar from here then, and their kindness to the setters has not been forgotten.


As Mr. Rudder was a very live man, a Progress Association was formed and it was a common thing to walk from here to those meetings and after four years agitation there was a sum of money voted for the construction of the Coffs Harbor Jetty, and £1000 to construct a road over the Red Hill, and by persistent agitation for the further construction of our roads with the sympathy and assistance of our member of Parliament, the late Sir John See, P Hogan, and J. Mclaughlin. I might say almost all our roads, of which we were very proud, were constructed before Local Government became law, but they have since drifted into a bad state of repair for which we are partly responsible. When a land-seeker would come along, if he seemed a decent kind of chap, we would try hard to settle him.

Delivery to Upper Orara, 1898 (01/01/1898 – 31/12/1898), Coffs Collections, accessed 05 Oct 2022,


The finding of the Coramba King gold mine was responsible for the Coramba township springing up just where it is and assisted materially the prosperity of the district. For many long years, the principal industry was maize growing, but as time rolled on a number of South Coast dairymen settled here, after which the Coramba butter factory was established and the district has forged ahead ever since. The names, of Mr. Eugene T. Rudder, Mr. Jas. Marles and the late Mr. Jas. Buchanan, of Karangi, deserve special mention for their consistent agitation for everything for the advancement of the district.


When one contrasts the conditions of nearly forty years ago with the present time and the conveniences of civilisation, the younger generation do not realise, what the pioneers had to go through. Now you have a daily mail, post and telegraph communication (and I hope a telephone soon in every home), good schools (free education), and churches. Then the butcher and the baker call daily, delivering goods regularly. And if, looking back through the years, its many hardships, its struggles and privations, I may offer a little advice to the young people of today, those starting out, in life, it is this:- Don’t drift aimlessly through life, start young, and if you would like to be happy, do something worthwhile every day.

TROVE APA citation

THE UPPER ORARA (1928, June 23). Daily Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1915 – 1954), p. 8. Retrieved October 4, 2022, from