From 1826 to 1831 an area of salt marsh to the east of Karuah, known as No. 1 Farm, was the scene of intense activity as over one hundred convicts employed by the Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) strove to turn it into viable farming land. The scheme was the brainchild of the first company Commissioner Robert Dawson. It was a miserable failure.
Every day for five years, convict labourers trudged back and forth along the three-kilometre road between Tahlee and No. 1 Farm where they dug, drained and broke rock. They built roads, bridges, walls and drains and cleared the land of trees.
The roads were massive earthworks created by hand! Remnants of one of the original roads still stretches for five kilometres between Tahlee and Karuah. It has become known as The Old AACo Road. Metre wide drains can still be seen running alongside a section of road called the ‘Corduroy Section’ which was built more than 180 years ago and was reinforced with timbers laid crossways giving the section its name.
The Old AACo road crossed Yalimbah Creek via a wooden bridge that remained in constant use from 1826 to the mid-1950s. For much of its existence, the Old AACo Road was the main road between Karuah and Tahlee. Young Karuah boys often supplemented their pocket money by delivering mail from Karuah to Tahlee for the princely sum of 5 shillings a week.
Although the old road is public it runs through several private properties. Highlights of the road include the heritage listed Corduroy Section, 1826 bridge remains and The Banana Garden where a pair of silver tongs was recently found. Sections of the road harbour archaeological secrets and await further studies.1
Author: David Benson
- David Benson, A Walk Along the Old AACo Road From Karuah to Tahlee. Karuah Progress Association Inc: 2015.
- David Benson, No. 1 Farm: The Rediscovery of the Australian Agricultural Company’s First Venture into Farming in Australia.
- David Benson (Ed), The Present State of Karuah, Port Stephens: Re-visiting Robert Dawson’s Accounts of his early contacts with local Indigenous Australians 1825 to 1829.
1 David Benson, A Walk Along the Old AACo Road From Karuah to Tahlee. Karuah Progress Association Inc: 2015.
2 Map drawn using Google Maps.