The Bega Pioneers' Museum has countless reports and stories on local issues. This is a history of Bermagui and district researched by Bertha Davidson and published in 1982. Last week she told of the first Europeans to come to the district and how Captain Campbell started the Bega settlement.
THE main residential area of Bega gradually shifted, in later years, to the present location on the other side of the river, mainly as the result of disastrous floods in 1851.
In 1832, W D Tarlinton moved his cattle down southward, eventually establishing himself on a property, Bredbatowra, near Cobargo, where his descendants still live. (Cobargo’s, like many other cemeteries, contains much interesting historical information on its tombstones.)
It is interesting to know that in 1833, Governor Bourke sailed south as far as Twofold Bay (where the Imlay brothers settled in 1832), in the John Penn, to inspect the south coast area. His party rode on bridle tracks through Merimbula, Tura, Bournda, Bega and along the coast to Bermagui. They then returned by the same route to Twofold Bay, for the voyage back to Sydney, where Bourke mentioned the land available at Bermagui, in his report.
The general settlement of the South Coast followed a pattern rather different from one’s expectations. Instead of a movement by sea into the many lakes and estuaries scattered along this part of the coast followed by settlement on the adjacent alluvial flats, the reverse took place, a south to south-east movement (overland), following beds of rivers and crossing the spurs.
Shipping did explore the lakes and estuaries on the coast. Bass, looking for Bateman’s Bay, found Durras Lake instead in 1797. In the same year he inspected Tuross Lakes, going as far as Bodalla for water. In 1821 Lieutenant Johnston explored Bateman’s Bay. In the far south, Twofold Bay was apparently a fairly common port of call (for protection) for ships travelling between Van Diemans Land and Port Jackson. In general, Merimbula, Tathra, Bermagui and Narooma simply went unnoticed by the north-south sea traffic.
The main impetus to settlement was provided by squatters who simply wanted more land for their cattle. Pastoral expansion from the south, to meet that which had extended southward from Braidwood to the Bega Valley, was begun by the Imlay brothers. Originally intending to concentrate on whaling around Twofold Bay, they were quick to grasp the advantages offered by the country to the north and east for grazing purposes. Many others also moved into these areas, many of them renting land from the large squatting stations. Tarlinton, for example, held all the land from the Brogo River to the Tuross, a distance of over 30 miles.