Robert Campbell - the man who made Bangalow

Woodbine House, the Campbell Homestead, overlooking Bangalow Estate
Woodbine House, the Campbell Homestead, overlooking Bangalow Estate

MOST of the towns and villages in our area grew as the result of a small group of people settling in the same place for a specific purpose. Some, like Bexhill, grew from cedar camps, others, like Casino, grew as part of the squatters' activities.

Ballina came from her role as a cedar port, while towns along the river often were part of shipbuilding, or the loading on to ships of cedar which had been floated downstream. Later towns were usually associated with farming activities, including, like Byron Bay, the import and export of goods.

However, there is a town which grew solely as the result of one man. This is Bangalow, and the man was Robert Campbell.

Robert Thord Campbell was born in 1848 at Clarencetown in the Hunter Region, the son of Robert M. and Honora Annie Campbell (nee Mooney), immigrants from Fermanagh, Ireland.

Looking for land

As a young man he worked at Newcastle smelting tin and copper ores. However, he longed to have his own piece of land. Most of the land had been taken up in the Hunter Region and what was available was expensive. Robert therefore decided to go to the Northern Rivers.

He arrived in the Big Scrub in 1881. It is not clear why he decided to go so far into the Scrub at this stage. He did want a large area of land, however, and possibly the only land available in the more closely settled areas was small acreage.

Although by this time the cedar cutters had been through most of the Big Scrub it was still an impenetrable jungle. Lawyer and stinging vines were everywhere. Any tracks which had been made were soon overgrown and a brush hook was necessary to make a new path as one proceeded.

Robert must have been strong in body as well as character as he pushed through until he reached his goal.

A bark hut on Byron Creek

He found a beautiful stream running though rolling hills, and he selected land on both sides of the stream - a total of 640 acres. The stream was later to be known as Byron Creek. Eventually he was to have 800 acres.

He immediately started clearing the land and built a bark hut so that his family could join him. He had married Mary Ann (Marian) Hunt in 1873 and they had four children.

The dairying industry was starting to grow rapidly when he arrived and he decided to purchase dairy cattle from the south and bring them overland to his property. Some were also brought by sea. He chose Milking Shorthorns and Durham-Ayrshire Cross cattle and soon his farm became a showpiece for the whole district.

He also grew sugar cane and maize. He divided the property into three separate farms, each developing and being documented separately.

Woodbine House, Bangalow estate

He was a very meticulous man who believed in studying progress and keeping an account of everything as he progressed. He built strong fences and fine yards and each property eventually had a fine house.

His homestead was called "Woodbine House" and stood on a hill overlooking the property which was called "Bangalow Estate".

He supported the co-operative movement especially the infant Norco. When a village was suggested he donated land for shops, churches, a cemetery, and other purposes including the Agricultural Show.

When his wife died in 1896 he married Johanna Dwyer. This did not please his first family and when he died in 1915 there was much family bitterness. Unfortunately, for some descendants this family dispute is still very much alive today.

Topics:  bangalow history

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