DRIVERS and cyclists taking the scenic, winding, spotted gum-laced road between Tathra and Tanja may have noticed new signs posted acknowledging the locality of Nelson.
The majority of Nelson sits within Mimosa Rocks National Park with only a handful of noticeable private properties at the junction of Nelson Creek and Tathra Bermagui Rd.
According to Bega Valley Shire Council’s Geographic Information System coordinator Jeff Imison, places such as Nelson went by their parish names until 20 years ago when suburbs were officially created and became known as localities.
Nelson was created from the parish of Tanja on July 28, 1995, and was only recently signposted after a large number of requests to council, allowing tourists and travellers the chance to stop for a quick photograph and Facebook post.
The Geographical Names Board of NSW has the job of labelling localities across the state and appears to juggle the themes of recognition of Indigenous language, cultural diversity and commemoration when deciding on names.
Many Australian placenames are derived from Indigenous languages or are named after European colonisers and politicians.
So what is the story behind the newly signed locality of Nelson and who or what does it commemorate?
The NSW government’s Office of Environment and Heritage begins the story with traditional owners the Djiringanj people, who densely populated the locality and the abundant food of the coastal stretch that is said to also contain a sacred men’s site.
By the 1840s, many Indigenous men worked as labourers while women worked as domestic servants often bearing the children of the occupiers, the government’s website states.
Former convict Fred Moon began farming sheep around the Bega River mouth in 1843 before George Nelson and Jack Hayden built a hut by the lagoon with plans to start a cattle station in 1846, with the name Nelson being the one that seemed to stick generations later.
Not much is known of “Big George Nelson”, but the little that is documented paints a tall imposing figure of a drover feared by the local Indigenous population, and wore a brace of pistols at all times.
Mr Nelson disappeared one day never to be seen again and rumours spread around the small community of his suspected murder.
Perhaps it was the mystery combined with tragedy that made the name stick, much like Doctor George Mountain, named after Dr George Imlay who took his own life on Boxing Day in 1846 along the mountain road after contracting an incurable disease.
From Tinpot to New Buildings
“LOCALITY” is a popular word around the Bega Valley with the shire landscape spotted with just over 100 from Wallaga Lake to the Victorian border.
The region has some interestingly named localities of which many residents of the valley may have never heard.
There’s Devils Hole west of Myrtle Mountain, Yankees Creek north of Bemboka, Greenlands just west of Yankees Creek, Reedy Swamp across the river from Jellat Jellat, Coolangubra west of Burragate, Tinpot north of Wandella and Nungatta South nestled on the Victorian border oddly surrounded on all sides by the locality of Nungatta.
Perhaps the strangest named locality is that of New Buildings.
New Buildings sits nestled between Wyndham and Coolangubra and split down the middle by Big Jack Mountain Rd and the Towamba River.
The definition of a locality according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is “different configurations of small settlements, including villages, towns, clusters of peri-urban style development, and areas with significant tourism.”
“A Locality may contain a population exceeding 1000 persons if it does not meet the criteria for an Urban Centre,” the ABS states.